Saudi ex­hi­bi­tion off due to Nadal in­jury

The Freeman - - SPORTS -

No­vak Djokovic con­firmed on Fri­day that his con­tro­ver­sial ex­hi­bi­tion match against Rafael Nadal in Saudi Ara­bia is off be­cause the Spaniard is in­jured.

The two play­ers had been due to meet in Jed­dah's King Ab­dul­lah Sports City on De­cem­ber 22 but faced calls to with­draw fol­low­ing the mur­der of Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi in the coun­try's con­sulate in Is­tan­bul last month.

Asked if now the ex­hi­bi­tion was not hap­pen­ing, Djokovic, speak­ing ahead of the start of the ATP Fi­nals on Sun­day, said: "Yes, it's not hap­pen­ing."

When ques­tioned whether that was be­cause Nadal was in­jured, the new world num­ber one said "yes".

Nadal con­firmed on Mon­day that he will miss the sea­son-end­ing ATP Fi­nals and that his sea­son is over due to in­jury.

The Spaniard said he needed an op­er­a­tion on his right an­kle and is also yet to re­cover from the ab­dom­i­nal prob­lem that kept him out of the Paris Mas­ters, mean­ing Djokovic is guar­an­teed to end the year top of the world rank­ings.

Djokovic and Nadal have played 52 times in their ca­reers, with the Serb lead­ing their head-to-head 27-25.

Roger Fed­erer, who is also in the eight-man field for the ATP Fi­nals at Lon­don's O2 arena, re­vealed last week that he had re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion to take part in the Saudi ex­hi­bi­tion but said he had turned down the ap­proach.

"I didn't want to play there at that time. So, for me, it was a very quick de­ci­sion," said Fed­erer.

Saudi Ara­bia has hosted a se­ries of in­ter­na­tional sports events in re­cent months.

The coun­try staged its first women's pro­fes­sional squash tour­na­ment in Jan­uary while Bri­tain's Cal­lum Smith knocked out com­pa­triot George Groves in a World Box­ing As­so­ci­a­tion su­per mid­dleweight box­ing bout in Jed­dah in Septem­ber

The moves are seen as part of Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man's drive to open up the con­ser­va­tive king­dom af­ter be­ing named heir to the throne in June 2017.

But de­spite moves by the young prince to mod­ernise the econ­omy and so­ci­ety -- in­clud­ing lift­ing a ban on women driv­ing -- the coun­try has stepped up re­pres­sion of re­li­gious, in­tel­lec­tual and fem­i­nist dis­si­dents.

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