Andy Murray will not get the chance to test himself against his oldest rival, Novak Djokovic, for the first time since 2017 after he was forced to withdraw from their third round match at the Madrid Open after suffering from illness.
It is a tough blow for Murray, who officially withdrew just over an hour before the pair had been scheduled to compete as the first match on Court Manolo Santana at 12pm in Madrid on Thursday. It would have marked their first match in more than five years and their 37th overall.
Having spent the previous four weeks in a training block after officially rekindling his partnership with coach Ivan Lendl, Murray had set up the match-up with Djokovic by playing some of his best tennis of the year, defeating Denis Shapovalov, the 14th seed, in the second round for his first top 20 win of the year.
Afterwards, Murray’s excitement about facing Djokovic was palpable. “He’s the world No 1 and I’ve got a metal hip,” Murray said. “I didn’t know I’d get opportunities to play matches like this again. In theory I shouldn’t have a chance in the match. But I’ve worked my hardest, put myself in a great position and it’s a fantastic opportunity to play against him again on a big court in a huge tournament.”
With this new setback, Murray now must hope to recover over the next few days in order to compete at the Italian Open, another Masters 1000 event that follows Madrid. Murray has currently entered the qualifying draw in Rome, which begins this weekend. Murray currently does not plan to compete at the French Open over best of five sets.
Despite receiving a walkover into the quarter-final, Murray’s withdrawal is also unwelcome news for Djokovic himself who is looking for as many matches as possible in order to improve his level after missing most of the first three months of this season due to his unvaccinated status. Djokovic will next face Hubert Hurkacz, the 12th seed, or Dusan Lajovic in the quarterfinal.