Tennis

Djokovic to replace Nadal as world No. 1

Injured Spaniard pulls out of Paris Masters, citing abdominal issues

Rafael Nadal pulled out of the Paris Masters yesterday, guaranteeing Novak Djokovic's return to world No. 1 spot.

Announcing his withdrawal, Nadal said: "My abdominal muscles haven't felt good for the past few days, especially on service, doctors recommended that I didn't play."

Djokovic arrived in Paris knowing that he would regain top spot he relinquished two years ago if he bettered the Spaniard's performance at the indoor event he has won four times.

The Serb started his Paris campaign with a 7-5, 6-1 win over Joao Sousa at the Paris Masters yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Djokovic had never dropped a set in five previous meetings with Portugal's Sousa, but he surrendered a 4-1 lead in the opener and appeared under the weather before regrouping to break Sousa at 6-5.

The 14-time Grand Slam champion then reeled off five games in a row to end Sousa's resistance and book a meeting with Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia in the last 16.

Dzumhur defeated rising Greek star and 14th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-3.

Roger Federer, who confirmed he will play at the event for the first time since 2015, received a bye in the second round after Canada's Milos Raonic also pulled out due to a right-elbow injury.

Federer's only tournament victory in Bercy came in 2011. On his last appearance in 2015, he was knocked out by American John Isner in the round of 16.

The Swiss star missed the event the past two years due to a combination of injury and selective scheduling. He has also sat out the last three French Opens.

Federer, 37, revealed he had received an invite to take part in an exhibition featuring Nadal and Djokovic in Saudi Arabia next month, but he 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.

Nadal and Djokovic are scheduled to meet in Jeddah on Dec 22, but they have faced growing calls to withdraw following the murder of a Saudi journalist in the country's consulate in Istanbul.

Both players this week said they are assessing the situation and have yet to make a final decision over their participation.

Meanwhile, fifth seed Marin Cilic cruised into the third round with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Gilles Simon was the only one of six Frenchmen to advance on Tuesday, defeating compatriot Lucas Pouille 6-3, 6-4, with Pierre-Hugues Herbert and qualifier Benoit Paire losing to Mikhail Kukushkin and Marton Fucsovics respectively. - AFP

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