Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray
Djokovic could yet be run down by Murray in pursuit of the world number one. Getty Images

Andy Murray's attempts to become the first ever British world number one has been given a timely boost after Novak Djokovic withdrew from the China Open due to an elbow injury. The Serbian continues to recover from the same injury which hindered his US Open campaign – where he was beaten in the final by Stanislas Wawrinka.

Djokovic is a six-time champion at the ATP 500 event and has won 29 matches consecutively in Beijing. However, the 11-time grand slam champion will not be competing and suggests his return could be delayed as he attempts to cure the long-standing issue.

"I am extremely disappointed not to be able to compete at the China Open this year," Djokovic told his official website. "I'm still recovering from my elbow injury and have been advised not to play until my condition improves. I will continue with my rehabilitation and hope to be able to return to the ATP Tour as soon as possible.

"The China Open is one of my favourite tournaments. I have had a lot of success there, winning the title six times. I love competing in front of the passionate Chinese fans and I look forward to coming back to Beijing in the future."

The withdrawal opens the door for Murray to potentially stake a claim and end the year as world number one. The Wimbledon and Olympic champion has no ranking points to defend at the event in China, which starts on 3 October, having not played the event since 2014. He could make up further ground if Djokovic is forced into a sustained spell on the sidelines.

Murray failed to win either of the remaining Masters 1000 tournaments in Shanghai or Paris last year, with Djokovic prevailing in both while a whitening display at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London could easily be improved upon. Nevertheless, the 28-year-old has a breach of 4,695 to make up between himself and Djokovic if he wishes to become the only Britain to head the men's singles ranking since their introduction in 1973.