Singapore tennis fans will not get to see men's world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in action in the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) event later this month.
The Serbian star has pulled out of the five-leg tournament, which is scheduled to make its stop here from Dec 18 to 20, citing a need to recover from a long season as the reason for his withdrawal.
He was supposed to be part of the OUE Singapore Slammers line-up this year. The Singapore side are one of five teams in the league, now into its second edition.
Said Djokovic in a statement: "It's been a long year for me and my body needs some extra time to recover. I wish the team the very best and will join them next year."
The 28-year-old has been a cut above the rest of the field on the ATP World Tour this year.
The 10-time Grand Slam champion compiled an 82-6 win-loss record and won 11 titles, including three Grand Slams (Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open) and six Masters 1000 titles.
He capped a stellar season by bagging his fourth successive season-ending ATP World Tour Finals crown last month.
In his absence, French Open champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland - the only player to have beaten Djokovic at this year's Majors - and British world No. 2 Andy Murray are the latest additions to the Slammers, which also include controversial Australian youngster Nick Kyrgios and WTA stars Belinda Bencic and Karolina Pliskova.
Interestingly, Wawrinka and Kyrgios will be teaming up for the first time since their ugly spat in August, when Kyrgios fired a personal insult at the Swiss. Kyrgios was later fined US$10,000 (S$14,000) by the men's tour.
Players do not necessarily need to play in all five legs of the event. Wawrinka is expected to be present at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, where he might be facing fellow Swiss Roger Federer, who leads the UAE Royals.
Murray, on the other hand, is slated to play in Dubai, and will give the Singapore leg a miss.
IPTL founder and Indian doubles player Mahesh Bhupathi said: "Both Murray and Wawrinka will add immense strength to the Slammers, raising the quality of tennis. Fans across the world can look forward to some exciting match-ups."
While Djokovic's absence has put a dampener on local tennis fans' expectations, they are still excited by the potential match-up between Wawrinka and Federer.
Said full-time tennis coach Liam Collins, 37: "Federer in tennis is like what Messi is to football. With him around, he will generate more spectators.
"Though Djokovic won't be here, there's still other good players coming. It's not like the replacement for world No. 1 is an unknown player."
The IPTL features past and current players using an abbreviated format which incorporates innovations such as a shot clock, power points and one-set matches.
The matches kicked off yesterday in Kobe, Japan, and will travel to the Philippines, India and Dubai before its finale in Singapore .
The Slammers opened their campaign with a 20-26 loss to the UAE Royals yesterday.
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