Australian Open officials disappointed for Nadal

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Rafael Nadal. AP FILE PHOTO

MELBOURNE – Australian Open officials on Saturday said they fully understood Rafael Nadal’s decision to miss the first Grand Slam of the season in Melbourne and wished him a speedy return to the tour.

The Spaniard announced his withdrawal from the tournament on Friday, saying he was still suffering from the stomach virus which caused him to cancel his return to action in the Gulf this week after a six-month injury absence.

“We consider it not appropriate to play the Australian Open since we will not have enough preparation for a great competition like a Grand Slam tournament,” said Toni Nadal, the player’s uncle and coach.

“It is simply not conceivable that his first event is a best-of-five-sets tournament, he wouldn’t be ready for that. It is true we have been quite unlucky with this but there is nothing we can do.”

Nadal , an 11-time Grand Slam title winner, also pulled out of the Qatar Open, which starts Monday and where he was due to play his first official event since losing in the Wimbledon second round in June.

“It is completely understandable and we really feel disappointed for him,” Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley 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.

“We just hope he gets better quickly and we see him back on the tour as soon as possible.”

The former world number one had been due to return after a crippling knee injury which saw him miss the London Olympics, where he was defending champion, the US Open and Davis Cup final, where Spain lost to the Czech Republic.

By missing the Australian Open, which starts on January 14, Nadal will face another drop in the rankings having been runner-up to Novak Djokovic in the 2012 final.

The record-breaking seven-time French Open champion will slip out of the top four for the first time in over seven years.

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