Rafael Nadal's participation at the Australian Open has been thrown into further doubt after the Spanish champion tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday.
The 20-time grand slam champion made his return at an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi last weekend after four months out with a foot injury, declaring his comeback a success despite consecutive defeats.
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Nadal had only competed in two matches since losing to Novak Djokovic in the French Open semi-finals in June before testing his long-term foot problem against Andy Murray and Denis Shapovalov.
But the 35-year-old's plans to feature in the Melbourne ATP 250 and Australian Open in January have suffered a massive setback after he tested positive for Covid-19 upon landing in his home country on Monday.
Nadal revealed the shock news on Twitter, writing: "I wanted to announce that on my return home after playing the Abu Dhabi tournament, I have tested positive for COVID in the PCR test that was performed on me when I arrived in Spain.
"Both in Kuwait and Abu Dhabi we passed controls every two days and all were negative, the last being on Friday and having the results on Saturday.
"I am having some unpleasant moments but I hope that I will improve little by little. I am now homebound and have reported the result to those who have been in contact with me.
"As a consequence of the situation, I have to have total flexibility with my calendar and I will analyse my options.
"I will keep you informed of any decisions about my future tournaments!"
Fans were left devastated over the news.
Rafa Nadal has been tested positive for #Covid
Get well soon Rafa
— Angelo Mangiante (@angelomangiante) December 20, 2021
Oh no, Rafa Nadal tests positive for COVID.
Will Denis Shapovalov and Andy Murray be considered close contacts of Nadal as they played each other a few days ago in Abu Dhabi? Nadal was practicing with Andrey Rublev too.@NeilMcMahon @GrogsGamut @AttardMon
— Kevin Pollard (@football_roos) December 20, 2021
Get well, Rafa!
— Seoulsistah (@Seoulsistah888) December 20, 2021
Unluckiest player of all time
— Miguel⁶ (@MiguelMartinsT) December 20, 2021
If his prep is limited at all by this, I don't see the point in playing it. Given his injury problems, what's there to gain from playing a hard court tournament he's very unlikely to win?
— Wild1 (@wild_live1) December 20, 2021
I was just thinking today how surprised I am that with Omicron doing the rounds that Nadal and others haven’t had it yet.
Sad days we live in. Hope he’s ok. 🤞🏻for AO https://t.co/mdMx5aPR1M
— Pip Coomes (@PipCoomes) December 20, 2021
nadal has covid. me sad 🥺
— Cass (@CassLeeBrown) December 20, 2021
Raf Nadal has Covid-19.Seems he became infectd playing in
Middle East.🙄Will there be no end? No wishful thinking.
We need to accept the awful truth.
There is no certainty. Not at this stage anyway.
Most of all, ignore #Scotty.
Sounded like #DisinfectantDonnie! #ScottyTheLiar
— Cara Mia (@CaraMia200) December 20, 2021
Rafa Nadal's startling confession about Australian Open
Speaking after his loss to Shapovalov in Abu Dhabi, Nadal admitted that he was no certainty to make the trip to Melbourne due to his fitness.
"I cannot guarantee Australia 100 per cent, because I need to go home and see how the body responds after these days," Nadal told reporters on Saturday.
"I have time to make a decision. At this point in my career, I need to go day by day, study each movement well.
"I have been able to show a competitive level against good players even without being in perfect condition.
"There are things to improve but looking at things with perspective it has been a positive tournament [in Abu Dhabi].
"The main objective is to be healthy enough to do the things that I need to do and aspire to the objectives that I have always had."
The ATP Tour event in Melbourne, which would be Nadal's first ATP-level tournament since August, is due to start on January 3.
Nadal has the chance to break the men's all-time grand slam record if he plays at the Australian Open.
He is currently tied on 20 with Djokovic and Roger Federer, although Djokovic's participation is still a mystery due to his vaccination status and Federer isn't playing after a third round of knee surgery.
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