Tennis: In-form Auger-Aliassime pulls out of Dubai with back injury

Felix Auger-Aliassime was seeded third in Dubai and was replaced in the draw by lucky loser Alexei Popyrin of Australia. PHOTO: AFP

DUBAI (REUTERS, AFP) - World No. 9 Felix Auger-Aliassime has withdrawn from this week's Dubai Tennis Championships with a back problem, the organisers of the ATP 500 tournament said on Monday (Feb 21).

The 21-year-old Canadian is at a career-high ranking and defeated French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final in Rotterdam this month to secure his maiden ATP Tour triumph.

He also reached the final of the ATP 250 event in Marseille last week, going down to Russian Andrey Rublev in the championship match on Sunday.

Auger-Aliassime was seeded third in Dubai and was replaced in the draw by lucky loser Alexei Popyrin of Australia.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is the top seed and will open his campaign later on Monday against Italian wildcard Lorenzo Musetti in his first match of the 2022 season, after the Serbian missed the chance to win a 10th Australian Open, and 21st Grand Slam, due to the cancellation of his visa in Melbourne and eventual deportation as a result of not being vaccinated.

The five-time winner in Dubai will not only have to use this tournament to find form and fitness, but also rankings points with his No. 1 spot under threat.

Even if he wins in Dubai, Djokovic could lose his place at the top, which he has held since February 2020, to Daniil Medvedev.

If Djokovic defends his status this week, his refusal to get vaccinated could cost him ranking points, particularly with two Masters tournaments coming up in the United States. He is on the entry list at Indian Wells from March 7 to 20, even though it is currently restricted to vaccinated players. That is followed by the Miami Open from March 21 to April 3.

"I just have to follow the rules. Whatever tournament that I'm able to play, I'll be trying to get to that country and play the tournament," Djokovic said on Sunday.

"I really can't choose right now. It's really about where I can go and play. Wherever I have an opportunity, I'll be using probably that opportunity and going to play because this is what I do, it's what I love to do still."

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