Stomach virus forces ‘sad’ Nadal to withdraw from Australian Open

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Rafael NADAL will miss next month’s Australian Open due to a stomach virus as his long-awaited return was put on hold again yesterday.

The world number four missed the second half of last season with a knee injury, but had hoped to be ready in time for the season-opening grand slam in Melbourne.

That bid has been scuppered, however, by a virus that had initially forced his withdrawal from this week’s exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi.

Nadal had hoped to use the tournament as a key part of his preparation for the hard courts of the Australian Open, which begins on January 14, but following his latest setback the 11-time grand slam winner has decided he would not be ready for the physical demands of one of the season’s showpiece events in the height of the Australian summer.

“I am sorry and very sad to announce that I will not play in the Australian Open,” he said. “My knee is coming along okay, but a stomach virus has left me unable to get ready in time to tackle the rigours of a grand slam.

“Because of the virus, I have been unable to get any match practice and simply would not be doing myself or my friends in Australia justice if I went down there so unprepared.

“You need your body to be at its best for the Australian Open.

“It was a difficult decision and I am extremely disappointed to be missing such a great event.”

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said: “It is completely understandable and we really feel disappointed for him. We just hope he gets better quickly and we see him back on the tour as soon as possible.”