Today the Australian Open confirmed what Rafa fans have feared for some time. “I am sorry and very sad to announce that I will not play in the Australian Open”, the eleven times Grand Slam Champion has said.
Tennis fans around the world have missed having Nadal on tour, ever since his shock defeat to Lukáš Rosol in the second round of Wimbledon this year. Known for his characteristic long baseline rallies and dedication to chasing down every ball, his playing style is a physically draining one and Nadal has been plagued by a tendonitis in his left knee since June.
Having missed the Olympics, the US Open and the ATP World Tour Finals to concentrate on his recovery, Nadal said in a statement on his Facebook page that his “knee is much better and the rehabilitation process has gone well”. However the stomach virus has prevented him from practicing this past week and the 26-year-old admits that he feels unprepared for the intense two weeks a Grand Slam entails, especially in the heat of Melbourne. “[I] simply would not be doing myself or my friends in Australia justice if I went down there so unprepared”, the 2009 champion said. Although his comeback had been eagerly anticipated, his withdrawal from the Australian Open is by no means a surprise; earlier this week, Nadal also had to skip the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition in Abu Dhabi with the same stomach virus.
With the Australian Open getting underway from the 14th January, it is a huge shame that last year’s finalist will not be there to try and reclaim the trophy. The 2012 Australian Open final has been called one of the best Grand Slam finals ever: not only an exciting match in terms of statistics with Djokovic edging Nadal in 5 hours and 53 minutes (the longest major championship final), but with the sheer quality of play through the 55 games and the tremendous sportsmanship that both the finalists showed.
So the Australian Open will have to wait another 12 months until a repeat of the great Djokovic-Nadal final. But hopefully we won’t have to wait that long, with Nadal saying that he hopes to compete in the Abierto Mexicano Telcel event in Acapulco which starts on the 25th February. And with the clay season coming into full swing in April, one can only hope that it’s not too long until we see the former world number 1 at his best again.