Novak Djokovic pulls out of Madrid Open. GETTY IMAGES

World number one Novak Djokovic misses the Masters 1000 tournament for the third time in four years. His old rival Rafael Nadal will begin his campaign against 16-year-old American Darwin Blanch.

Djokovic is in the Spanish capital for the Laureus World Sports Awards on Monday and saw Real Madrid defeat Barcelona 3-2 in El Clasico on Sunday night. However, the Serbian ace has been widely reported as withdrawing from the Madrid Open starting later this week.

The 36-year-old is without a title in 2024 and suffered his first defeat to Casper Ruud in the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters earlier this month. Having played just four tournaments this year, the 24-time Grand Slam singles champion appears to be employing a deliberate strategy to manage his workload and extend his career.

Armand Duplantis, Lionel Messi, Max Verstappen, Noah Lyles and Erling Haaland are his rivals for the Sportsman of the Year award at the Laureus gala. Were Djokovic to win it again, he would equal Roger Federer's record of five Laureus Sportsman of the Year awards.

Djokovic remains a potential contender at the Italian Open in Rome before he begins the defence of his French Open crown at Roland Garros in late May. This is his second absence from a Masters 1000 event this year having previously skipped the Miami Open in March.

Home favourite Rafael Nadal will play in Madrid following his recent appearance at the Barcelona Open where he fell in the second round to Alex de Minaur. The 37-year-old will meet Darwin Blanch with the American 21 years Nadal's junior. Should the veteran prevail, he will set up a quick rematch with world number 11 de Minaur.

Reigning champion Carlos Alcaraz has a first-round bye having missed the last two tournaments with a forearm injury. The Spaniard is optimistic that he will be fully fit to defend his title and opens up against either Alexander Shevchenko or Arthur Rinderknech.

The world number two is the top seed in Djokovic's absence, but Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner comes to Madrid Open with high expectations having suffered just two defeats this year. The Italian's first opponent will be Italian compatriot Lorenzo Sonego and a qualifier.