Nadal withdraws from Aussie Open

Nadal withdraws from Aussie Open

BARCELONA - The Associated Press
Nadal withdraws from Aussie Open

Spanish star Rafael Nadal’s long-awaited return was taken aback by a stomach virus. AFP photo

Just when Rafael Nadal’s knee had recovered, a stomach virus has forced the Spaniard to delay his return to tennis by another couple of months.

Nadal announced on Dec. 28 that he will miss next month’s Australian Open and probably won’t play again until the end of February, saying he needed time to recover from a stomach virus that already prevented him from making his return at Abu Dhabi this week.

The latest setback comes after being sidelined since June with a knee injury, which forced him out of this year’s Olympics and U.S. Open. He had planned to make his return to the ATP tour at the Qatar Open in Doha next month before the Jan. 14-27 Australian Open, but pulled out of both events.

While he is expected to recover from the virus in time for the Grand Slam tournament, Nadal and his team said he wouldn’t have the proper preparation to play in a five-set event straight away.

Nadal stressed that his decision had nothing to do with the tendinitis in his left knee, which made him take a hiatus since last summer following a stunning second-round loss to then 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon in June.

“My knee is much better and the rehabilitation process has gone well as predicted by the doctors,” Nadal said in a statement from his hometown of Manacor on the island of Mallorca. “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.”

The former No. 1 said he hopes to make his long-awaited return at Acapulco starting on Feb. 27. However, he did not rule out playing at an earlier tournament if his recovery went well.