'Great sadness': Tennis fans gutted over Rafa Nadal injury news

Rafael Nadal, pictured here at a post-match press conference.
Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the Rotterdam Open with a back injury. (Photo by PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal has succumbed to the back injury that hampered him at the Australian Open, withdrawing from next week's ATP event in Rotterdam.

Nadal announced on Thursday that he had pulled out of the Rotterdam Open due to the back injury.

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The 20-time grand slam champ has been struggling with the issue for some time.

He was also been forced to skip Spain's ATP Cup ties in Melbourne earlier this month.

"It is with great sadness that I have to forfeit from Rotterdam," Nadal said in a statement on Thursday.

"As most of the fans know, I suffered some back problems in Australia that started in Adelaide and continued during Melbourne.

"We found a temporary solution that allowed me to play without pain in the second week of the tournament.

"Once I got back to Spain I visited my doctor and together with my team they've advised not to play this upcoming week.

"I was really looking forward to coming back to Rotterdam and The Netherlands since it’s been a while (since) I played there."

Fans were left gutted by the news, wishing Nadal a speedy recovery on social media.

Despite the injury, Nadal made it to the Australian Open quarter-finals without dropping a set.

He was eventually knocked out by Stefanos Tsitsipas, losing a five-set thriller despite winning the first two sets.

World No.3 Daniil Medvedev will replace Nadal as the top seed in the Rotterdam event, which will run from March 1-7.

Novak Djokovic's message to Nadal and Federer

On Sunday, Novak Djokovic promised that as long as Nadal and Roger Federer keep adorning the sport, he'll be duelling with them as the "three knights of tennis".

After outplaying Medvedev in the Australian Open final, Djokovic laughed that his pre-match prediction about the 'big three' not being about to make way for the next generation had been "risky".

But he was convinced his 18th grand slam was down to the inspiration he keeps taking from his race with Nadal and Federer, who both have 20 apiece.

Rafael Nadal, pictured here in action at the Australian Open.
Rafael Nadal crashed out of the Australian Open in the quarter-finals. (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Such was the 7-5 6-2 6-2 hammering that Medvedev took that the Russian was moved to call them - affectionately, he insisted - as "cyborgs of tennis".

Asked what he'd call them, Djokovic couldn't help smiling as he suggested "The Three Knights of Tennis" - a title that's inevitably bound to stick now.

"I don't know how else I would describe the three of us," said Djokovic.

"Roger and Rafa inspire me. I'll say it again. I mean, I think as long as they go, I'll go!

"I think in a way it's, like, a race who plays tennis more, I guess, and who wins more. It's a competition between us in all areas.

"But I think that's the very reason why we are who we are, because we do drive each other, we motivate each other, we push each other to the limit."

with AAP

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