Serbian tennis maestro and defending champion Novak Djokovic made a late withdrawal from the Qatar Open as one of the season’s traditional curtain raisers is all set to begin on Monday.
The former world number one, who successfully defended his title last year by thrashing British tennis maestro Andy Murray in three sets, pulled out of the tournament in the wake of his continuous problems with a niggling elbow injury.
The injury has also cast doubts over Djokovic’s participation in the first major of the season – Australian Open.
The 12-time Grand Slam winner has not played a competitive match since his withdrawal from the Wimbledon quarterfinal against Tomas Berdych due to injury.
In the absence of Djokovic, the top seed has been given to world number five Dominic Thiem of Austria.
Thiem, who recently broke into the top five in the rankings for the first time in his career, will be hoping to make a winning start to his campaign when he takes on Evgeny Donskoy of Russia.
While second-seed Pablo Carreno Busta has been drawn against Croatia’s Borna Coric, veteran Tomas Berdych will square off with Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany in the first round.
The top quartet of seeds is completed by Spain’s Albert Ramos Vinolas.
Other top contenders include Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, France’s Richard Gasquet and France’s Gael Monfils.