Nadal pulls out of the Australian Open
It is official. After much speculation on the wires about the state of Rafael Nadal, we have it from the horse’s mouth. The Spanish matador has announced that he is skipping the Asia Pacific swing to nurse himself back to shape for the months ahead. Nadal, who was scheduled to play at the Mubadala Tennis World Championship had announced earlier that he wasn’t ready to play.
“It was a difficult decision and I am extremely disappointed to be missing such a great event,” Nadal said. “I love coming to Melbourne and playing on Rod Laver Arena before the Australian crowds. It brings out the best in me. It hurts to have to wait another 12 months before I get another chance. In the meantime, the focus is now on desperately trying to get back on the tour.”
While his withdrawal from Abu Dhabi encouraged various people in the Aussie tennis fraternity to pursue the possibility of luring the great champion to prepare for the first Grand Slam of the year by playing in one of the tune up tournaments Down Under, Nadal’s camp maintained a stoic silence about the plans of the tennis star. It emerged this evening that Nadal might in fact be suffering from a stomach virus that has kept him off the courts, costing him the opportunity to practice himself back into shape after the long lay-off due to the knee injury. His wobbly knee had kept him out of the tour since his second round elimination at the hands of Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon this year.
Australian Open tournament Director, Craig Tiley offered his empathy: “It is completely understandable and we really feel disappointed for him,” he said. “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.”
In an official communique to his fans on Facebook, Nadal posted this message: “As my team and doctors say, the safest thing to do is to do things well and this virus has delayed my plans of playing these weeks,” he said. “I will have to wait until the Acapulco tournament to compete again although I could consider to play before at any other ATP event.”
Even though this might sound unconvincing to many a sceptic, his ardent followers will take heart from Nadal’s assertion that the knee has been rehabilitated adequately.
“My knee is much better,” he assured the media, “and the rehabilitation process has gone well as predicted by the doctors, but this virus didn’t allow me to practice this past week and therefore I am sorry to announce that I will not play in Doha and the Australian Open, as we had initially scheduled.”
The Spaniard’s decision will mean that he is certain to drop further down the rankings in the weeks ahead. Nadal is currently ranked world No. 4 – with a lead of 185 points over fellow Spaniard David Ferrer and 2, 210 points over Tomas Berdych. Meanwhile, news has also emerged that Nadal has decided to end his relationship with IMG, the company that has managed his career so far. It is widely believed that the Spaniard is all set to start his own company, with his father and uncle at the helm of its affairs. Nadal has several high value relationships with Nike (approx. $7mn per year), Armani and Bacardi among others.
Nadal’s absence from the Aussie swing will mean that the Spaniard might also opt out of the hard court rush in the United States before the tour moves to Europe for the summer feast on his favourite terra batteau. While this is speculative at best, it might be his best option for a smoother return to work his way back on clay, where he has enjoyed the most consistent successes of his illustrious career. Tennis though, is certainly poorer for the continued absence of Nadal, whose epic six-hour duel with Djokovic at Melbourne last year showcased the Spaniard’s raw energy and readiness for a duel to death or glory. Tennis fans, including the atheists among them, will let out a silent prayer tonight hoping for Nadal’s complete recovery and return to the tour.