Djokovic comeback stalls after more pain in right elbow

FILE - In this Wednesday, July 26, 2017 file photo, tennis player Novak Djokovic pauses during a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia. Novak has withdrawn from the Mubadala WTC exhibition event due to pain in his right elbow. The Serbian star was scheduled to return to tennis on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 after being out of the game for nearly six months.(Andrej Isakovic, Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - This is a Wednesday, July 12, 2017 file photo of Serbia's Novak Djokovic as he gestures during a press conference after losing his Men's Singles Quarterfinal Match against Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych on day nine at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London. Novak has withdrawn from the Mubadala WTC exhibition event due to pain in his right elbow. The Serbian star was scheduled to return to tennis on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 after being out of the game for nearly six months. (AELTC, Joe Toth/File via AP)

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The comeback plans for Novak Djokovic stalled on Friday when a recurrence of pain in his right elbow forced him to withdraw from an exhibition tournament in the United Arab Emirates.

Djokovic hasn't played competitively since he retired in the Wimbledon quarterfinals because of the elbow injury. He was scheduled on Friday to play Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in the exhibition semifinals, his first match in nearly five months.

"I am terribly disappointed that I am forced to withdraw," Djokovic said in a statement on his website.

"Unfortunately, in the past few days I started to feel pain in the elbow and after several tests, my medical team has advised me not to risk anything, to withdraw from the tournament and to immediately continue with the therapies.

"This might affect the start of the season and the tournament plan, but the decision will be made in the following days."

Djokovic is entered in the Qatar Open starting on Monday in Doha, where he's the defending two-time champion. That's his lead-in tournament for the Australian Open, which starts in just over two weeks.

Exhibition tournament organizers have arranged a substitute match between Andy Murray, another former No. 1 who has been out since Wimbledon with a hip injury, and Bautista Agut.

Murray has been in Abu Dhabi only to train for the tour.

Bautista Agut will take on the winner of the other semifinal between Dominic Thiem of Austria and Kevin Anderson of South Africa.

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