Andy Murray has been forced to pull out of Rome Masters qualifying as he continues to recover from a bout of food poisoning that forced him to miss a highly-anticipated clash against world No 1 Novak Djokovic.
Murray has overcome back and hip surgery to return to the top levels of tennis and was set to face Djokovic for the first time in five years at the Madrid Open this week.
A late bout of food poisoning forced him to retire from the match – and therefore the tournament – and now his struggles with illness are continuing.
The Brit officially pulled out of qualifying for the Rome Masters on Friday, which is due to take place over the weekend, before the tournament itself begins next week.
If he had come through the qualification process, he would have been given another chance to play the likes of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev, with a host of top names slated to be involved.
The illness Murray is suffering will come as a considerate blow to his season, after he made the decision to U-turn on his initial plan of skipping the clay-court season to focus on this summer’s grass tournaments.
Now, though, he will have missed at least two of the tournaments he was focused on playing in, with no word as to whether he will pull out of any more.
Murray won the Italian Open tournament back in 2016, but will likely have no chance to lift the trophy again this season – unless he recovers and is offered a late wildcard.
He was not given one for this year’s tournament, with four Italians instead being offered them, but one of the entries – Lorenzo Musetti – has admitted he may not be fit enough to play in the tournament.
That could yet give the chance for organisers to bring Murray in if he is recovered.
Speaking after the Scot pulled out of their huge match-up earlier in the week, world No 1 Djokovic said: ‘We go back a long time and I’m really sorry for him that he was not able to come out on the court.
‘Obviously it’s not great for the tournament, it’s not great for our sport. Everyone was looking forward to that encounter, we haven’t played I think in five years but hopefully we’ll get a chance to play soon.’