Rafael Nadal withdrew from the Australian Open because of a stomach virus, extending his absence from tennis that started seven months ago with a knee injury.
Nadal said in an e-mailed statement that he also pulled out of next week’s Qatar Exxon Mobil Open in Doha because of the illness. The Australian Open, the season’s first Grand Slam tournament, is scheduled to start in Melbourne on Jan. 14.
“I always said that my return to competition will be when I am in the right conditions to play and after all this time away from the courts I rather not accelerate the comeback and prefer to do things well,” Nadal said in the statement.
Nadal won a record seventh French Open title in June, his 11th Grand Slam single championship. He hasn’t played competitively since losing in the second round of Wimbledon to then 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic later that month.
Diagnosed with a partially torn patella tendon as well as knee inflammation, the Spanish left-hander missed the London Olympics, the U.S. Open, the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London and the final of the Davis Cup.
Angel Ruiz-Cotoro, his doctor, said Nadal had “suffered last week a viral process that provoked a gastroenteritis with high fever for four to five days. Due to this, it’s been recommended a break from sports for a week. Because of this and considering that the next event is Doha, starting next week he won’t be in sufficient physical conditions to continue with his rehabilitation process.”
Nadal won the Australian Open in 2009, beating Roger Federer of Switzerland in the championship match, and was runner-up last year to top-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia.
After resuming training at the end of November, he had initially been due to make his comeback at an exhibition event yesterday in Abu Dhabi. He said on his Facebook page on Dec. 25 that he had been ordered by doctors not to play because of a stomach infection.
Nadal dropped two spots to No. 4 on the ATP World Tour rankings during his absence. With a game built on grinding his opponents down from the back of the court, the 26-year-old Nadal has been injury prone throughout his career, with the current layoff his longest.
Nadal missed the defense of his Wimbledon title in 2009 because of knee tendinitis, and has also struggled with a shoulder injury and a recurring stress fracture in a foot.