Novak Djokovic to miss Australian Open after elbow surgery

The Serbian tennis star tweeted a photo of himself on Friday giving a confident pep talk to reporters as he looked ahead to the upcoming five-week season.

“I cannot say much on the injuries. I will see on Monday what is possible to do. I will stay positive,” the 31-year-old player said.

But the big news is what he didn’t say, which is that he’ll be out of the first grand slam tournament of the season in January.

Djokovic said “there is no option” for him to play in the season-opening Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 15.

“There is no option for me to play in Australian Open,” he told a news conference in New York on Friday. “I’ll try to follow next week and have a window for me to test as a recovery.”

The 17-time grand slam winner said the decision to leave the hardcourt tournaments in Japan, Singapore and Indian Wells was based on his plans for his elbow. He also said he was surprised by the timing of his announcement, saying he told people on Thursday.

Djokovic said doctors in Serbia also were asking that he take a course of anti-inflammatory medications. He said he has been in contact with Australian doctors and, if it helps, his first match could be at the $2 million ATP event in Brisbane starting on Jan. 2.

Still, he made it clear his will be taking a while before he’s back on the court.

“There’s no option for me to play in Australian Open because my elbow isn’t on the same level it was before. On the same time I hope that I can play in Brisbane and hopefully other tournaments before Australian Open,” Djokovic said.

“There’s no option for me to play. Obviously it’s very frustrating and it’s been a year in which everything I’ve tried has not worked.”

Djokovic said his manager had advised him to avoid talking about his struggles.

“I’ve been very emotional at times. And trying to not fall into the trap of being tired and exhausted, and what life is going to have to deal with as a result of this … because I really appreciate how my fans have stood by me and supported me in difficult times.”

The loss to Andrey Rublev at the Paris Masters on Saturday was the latest in a long string of elbow problems for Djokovic that has seen him miss an entire season and has kept him off the tour for almost four months.

Injuries forced him to miss last year’s Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open, and restricted him to playing only three tournaments in 2016, including one at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

“This time it is a different process,” Djokovic said. “And I’m optimistic that I will recover and that my career is once again going in the right direction.”

Djokovic is one of the greatest players in history, with 13 Grand Slam titles. But even he isn’t immune to injury.

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He revealed last year that he had an early-onset form of testicular cancer and his victory at Wimbledon raised hopes he could return to the top.

The Serb — with an IQ of 160 — talked openly about his struggles with health and mental issues but also was at his best on court, with 31 consecutive wins at the French Open dating to his first major in 2005.

But he struggled for more than two years, including battling from the first round of Wimbledon with a stomach injury before losing to Sam Querrey in the third round.

With Newsday staff reports

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