Andy Murray missed the chance to test himself against his old rival Novak Djokovic for the first time since 2017 after he was forced to withdraw from their third round match at the Madrid Open due to illness.
It is a tough blow for Murray, who officially withdrew just over an hour before the pair had been scheduled to compete as the first match on Manolo Santana Stadium at 12pm in Madrid on Thursday. It would have marked their first match in more than five years and their 37th overall.
Later it emerged that Murray had been suffering from food poisoning and he did not practice on Wednesday. Feliciano López, the tournament director and Murray’s former doubles partner, confirmed the news to various British newspapers in Madrid.
“I had a message yesterday from Andy that he was not feeling well. He had food poisoning, it sounds like he is feeling better this morning but is still not well enough to go on the court, ”said López.
Having spent the previous four weeks in a training block after officially rekindling his partnership with his coach, Ivan Lendl, Murray had set up the match with Djokovic, the world No 1, by playing some of his best tennis of the year. In a match that finished after midnight, Murray defeated Denis Shapovalov, the 14th seed, in the second round for his first top 20 win of the season.
Afterwards, Murray’s excitement about facing Djokovic was palpable. “He’s the world No 1 and I’ve got a metal hip,” Murray said. “I didn’t know I’d get opportunities to play matches like this again. In theory I shouldn’t have a chance in the match. But I’ve worked my hardest, put myself in a great position and it’s a fantastic opportunity to play against him again on a big court in a huge tournament. “
With this new setback, Murray now will hope to recover over the next few days in order to compete at the Italian Open, another Masters 1000 event that follows Madrid. Murray has entered the qualifying draw for Rome, which begins this weekend. Murray previously said he does not plan to compete at the French Open, played over best of five sets, in order to prioritise his health for the subsequent grass court season.
Murray’s withdrawal is also unwelcome news for Djokovic, who receives a walkover into the quarter-final but is looking to play as many matches as possible before the French Open in order to rid himself of the rust that has coated his game since missing almost all of the first three months of this season due to being unvaccinated. Djokovic will next face Hubert Hurkacz, the 12th seed, or Dusan Lajovic.
Dan Evans’s solid run to the third round of Miami came to an end though as Andrey Rublev, the sixth seed, edged him out 7-6 (5), 7-5 in a tight two-set match. After recovering to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, the 17th seed, in the previous round, Evans performed well again and he generated sufficient opportunities for a different outcome.
In an attritional 75-minute opening set, Evans moved to set point on his serve in the tie-break before netting a routine slice backhand. Then, in the second set, he recovered from a break deficit and imposed significant pressure on Rublev until the final games. In the end, Rublev kept his volatile temper in check long enough for his greater firepower and comfort on clay to drive him to victory.