Novak Djokovic has made the stunning decision to withdraw from the Madrid Open, relinquishing the title he won there in 2019.
Madrid Open officials announced the news on Wednesday, sharing a message from the World No.1 on Twitter.
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"Sorry that I won’t be able to travel to Madrid this year and meet all my fans”, said Djokovic.
"It’s been two years already, quite a long time. Hope to see you all next year!"
The COVID-19 pandemic had forced the 2020 edition of the Madrid Open to be cancelled, which means 2019 winner Djokovic is still the last champion at the event.
The 33-year-old was last seen in action on home soil at the Serbia Open last week, where he reached the semi-finals before losing to Russia's Aslan Karatsev.
The World No.1's surprise defeat to the World No.28 came after also losing to Dan Evans, ranked 33rd, earlier this month in Monte Carlo.
He is still expected to feature at next month's Rome Masters and Belgrade Open in the lead up to the French Open, which begins on May 30.
— Marie Roy (@Akviko) April 28, 2021
what a joke so he prefer 250 atp over masters
— - (@Delpo_2) April 28, 2021
Rome! there you go 🎾 Waiting for you in Italy Nole. We love you like you were Italian ❤😍
— ~Maria~ (@__Maria__R) April 28, 2021
What a pity! Great tournaments = great players. We Will miss him. 🙌🏻
— Bosco James (@boscojamesb) April 28, 2021
Family heartache behind Novak Djokovic's absence
Djokovic has only played four tournaments this year, having decided to take a break following his 18th grand slam title triumph at the Australian Open in February.
After taking the crown at Melbourne Park, Djokovic flagged the possibility of playing less tournaments in 2021 so he could spend more time with his young family.
The Serb said constantly being away from wife Jelena and their two young children is weighing heavily on him.
"At times it rips my heart apart," Djokovic said after etching his name on the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup for a ninth time.
"I will have to revise my schedule comparing to the last year or any other season before this.
"Obviously time away from family definitely is something that has an impact on me.
"I'll have to see with these rules and regulations and restrictions in place all over the world, Europe.
"Not being able to take my family on the road is something that is a big problem for me."
Novak and Jelena have two children together - Stefan, 6, and Tara, 3.
Djokovic will be hoping to deny Rafael Nadal a 13th title at Roland Garros while looking to add to his own single success in Paris in 2016.
The Madrid Open starts this week, with the women's main draw beginning on Thursday and the men's tournament on Sunday.
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