MADRID, (Reuters) – French Open champion Rafa Nadal has been forced to withdraw from next month’s Australian Open because of a stomach virus that has disrupted his recovery from a long-term knee injury, the world number four said on Friday.
“My knee is much better and the rehabilitation process has gone well as predicted by the doctors, but this virus didn’t allow me to practise this past week,” the Spaniard, who has also pulled out of the Qatar Open in Doha, said in a statement.
“Therefore I am sorry to announce that I will not play in Doha and the Australian Open, as we had initially scheduled.”
Nadal was due to make his competitive comeback after the knee injury sidelined him for six months at this week’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship, an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi that is not part of the ATP Tour.
The 26-year-old won the event in 2010 and 2011 but withdrew on Dec. 25 citing the stomach virus.
He has not played since June when he suffered a shock defeat in the second round of Wimbledon to Czech Lukas Rosol.
He was subsequently diagnosed with a partial tear of the patella tendon and inflammation in his left knee and was unable to defend his Olympic title at the London Games.
The 11-times grand slam singles champion also missed the U.S. Open and the season-ending World Tour championships before returning to the practice court on November 20.
At last year’s Australian Open, Nadal was runner-up to Novak Djokovic after an epic five-set final that lasted almost six hours. It was the longest match at the event and the longest men’s grand slam singles final on record.
“It is completely understandable and we really feel disappointed for him,” Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said on the event’s website (www.australianopen.com).
“But without any match practice and without sufficient lead up time on the practice court, it makes it virtually impossible for him to get his body ready,” Tiley added.
“We just hope he gets better quickly and we see him back on the tour as soon as possible. Tennis fans across the world have been missing him. “I am confident we will see him back on the tour soon and back in Australia for 2014.”