Published — Wednesday 26 December 2012
Last update 28 December 2012 2:33 am
MADRID: Former men’s tennis world No.1 Rafael Nadal’s long-awaited return after an agonizing six-month knee injury battle has been put off because of a stomach infection he revealed on his Twitter and Facebook sites yesterday.
The 26-year-old Spaniard — who hasn’t played since his shock second round exit to 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon in June — had been due to play in a six player exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi this week ahead of his return to the ATP circuit at Doha from Dec.31.
He was due to join world No.1 Novak Djokovic and US Open champion Andy Murray among others at the three-day event.
“I am really sorry but I cannot compete this year in Abu Dhabi,” wrote the seven-time French Open champion and presently ranked No.4 in the world.
“Everything was ready and I was really eager to return to competition, but the doctors have forbidden me to participate in Abu Dhabi because of a viral infection of the stomach which has provoked a fever.” Nadal, an 11-time Grand Slam title winner, has been plagued by knee injuries throughout his career, a legacy of his all-action style.
But earlier this week he shrugged off any fears that despite falling to No.4 in the world rankings, he is no longer a threat to Djokovic, Murray and world No.2 Roger Federer.
“I haven’t forgotten how to play. I have played over 600 ATP matches and I have spent two years without playing. My feeling is good. I won Roland Garros and those emotions are still me,” he said.
“The doctors say the knee is fine and that is great news for me. I still feel something, it’s not perfect.” Nadal insisted he is not bitter over his recent experiences.
“I have accepted it as normal, as part of my career, part of my job. It’s another challenge,” he told marca.com.
“All I can do is try. But people have to realize that when you’re so many months without competing you need time to progress.” Nadal said the knee was “still not 100 percent” and he was planning to ease back in slowly.
“I am not thinking long term, I am just focused on the knee, seeing how it responds and then we’ll see later on.
“I want to be sure that it’s completely ready to start competing in anger again, without any doubts.
“My season, my real objective, is to be in perfect condition for Indian Wells and Miami (in March) and get to Monte Carlo (in April) with good feelings, to tackle the clay season in good shape.
“The last tournament I played in good shape was Roland Garros and I won it. “The end of February or March is when I will feel good. That’s when my season starts, that’s when I’ll tell myself that I am ready to win.”
Nadal’s athletic, aggressive playing style places huge demands on his muscles and joints and he has been sidelined several times by injuries during his 11-year career.
He said he had not considered the possibility he might be forced to retire because of the latest setback.
“No, no, no. I have not thought about that,” he told ABC.
“Tennis is a sport that does not last forever,” he added. “It’s not like golf which you can play for 20 or 25 years without any problems.
“In tennis time is limited, that’s the way it is. I am an optimistic type and I don’t believe that I have forgotten how to play tennis during these past months.”