Rafael Nadal will not take part in Spain’s ATP Cup tie against Greece on Friday, admitting he’s still not ready to play just four days out from the Australian Open.
The World No.2 will miss another ATP Cup tie with a back injury which has cast a shadow over his hopes of a record-setting 21st grand slam title in Melbourne.
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Nadal missed Spain’s opening clash with Australia on Tuesday and the 34-year-old was also absent when the schedule was released for Friday’s tie against Greece.
“I'm not well enough to play. I’m improving bit by bit, but I’m not ready to play a match with maximum intensity,” Nadal told Spanish broadcaster Vamos.
Nadal hasn’t played a competitive match since the semis of the ATP Finals in London on November 21.
His only appearance since was an exhibition match against Dominic Thiem in Adelaide last Friday.
And the World No.2 has admitted that doubts remain over his fitness ahead of next week’s Australian Open.
“It’s not that I’m in a really bad way, but I'm also not all right in the sense that I can't play either," he said.
The 34-year-old practised for an hour on Thursday evening at the Rod Laver Arena and his fitness was improving, sources close to Nadal told Reuters.
The Spaniard was one of the top players who quarantined in Adelaide for 14 days after their arrival Down Under and were allowed five hours a day to train during the mandatory isolation.
He then defeated Thiem 7-5 6-4 in an exhibition match between the men’s No.2 and No.3 at Adelaide’s Memorial Drive Tennis Club.
Concerns over Rafael Nadal’s fitness
Nadal sits level with Roger Federer on 20 grand slam titles and, with the Swiss not taking part in Melbourne after knee surgery, the Spaniard would have the chance to become the all-time major record holder in the men's game for the first time.
He insisted, however, that that was not something he was focused on.
“First things first, and that's to play the Australian Open, and if that doesn't go well, the season goes on,” he said.
“I've never been obsessed with grand slams, truth be told.”
Tennis greats Mats Wilander says the 14-day quarantine and lack of competitive matches ahead of the grand slam could prove problematic for Nadal.
“That's a worry for sure, he would want to play maybe a couple of matches,” Wilander told Reuters.
“That's kind of scary, I think, for him.
“I don't remember him having back problems before. He's not young any more.”
Fans also expressed their fears that Nadal will miss the Australian Open.
Bad news. Hope he recovers for Australian open next week
— Paco Coloma (@coloma_paco7) February 3, 2021
Hoping for the best for AO 🙏
— Anika (@anika_gupta) February 3, 2021
Very sad news.
— Denise Johnson (@dljohnsoncalif) February 3, 2021
now one more day off tomorrow to get fit again 💪🏻 no need to take risks before AO
— Doris (@Dorli_Wi) February 3, 2021
The back & any musculoskeletal issues take weeks to improve.
Now we just hope he can play AO 🙏❤️
— Loli (@LoliLondon) February 3, 2021
Of course he isn’t. I’d say forget about AO too. Probably will play several rounds and get eliminated in QF due to back injury. Its not good for him to get injured off court like this.
— Yörükcan Erbay (@YorukcanE) February 3, 2021
Nadal had an extra day to recuperate on Thursday after all matches in the warm-up events for the Australian Open were postponed after a COVID-19 case at a tournament hotel.
Pablo Carreno Busta and Roberto Bautista Agut will lead Spain’s challenge against Greece on Friday.
The Australian Open gets underway on Monday with Nadal, the 2009 champion, looking to edge ahead of Federer’s 20 majors.
Federer is not playing in the tournament and will only return to the tour in Doha in March.
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