Rafael Nadal has joined a growing list of players who are not yet ready or fully fit to resume the rigour of a tennis calendar and a short off-season to recuperate. The Spaniard has pulled out of the season-opening exhibition event in Abu Dhabi – just days after Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka. Nadal has cited ongoing fitness concerns as the reason for his pull out.
The 16-time grand slam champion who won the French Open and US Open earlier this year, after injury concerns affected him in 2016, withdrew from the year-ending ATP Finals in November after struggling with a knee injury during his round-robin defeat by Belgian David Goffin. The 31-year-old Spaniard, who has featured at the Abu Dhabi tournament on eight occasions, will be replaced by compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut.
“It was a tough 2017 and I need to take my calendar in a different way in order to be ready,” Nadal told the Mubadala World Tennis Championships website. “For this reason, I have sadly announced to the organizers and now to you fans that I won’t play this time in Abu Dhabi.”
Other players who are struggling with return to tour and remain questionable for the warm-up events prior to Australian Open, which starts on January 15, are Kei Nishikori (pulled out of Brisbane) and Andy Murray (delayed his departure for Australia). On the women’s side, Serena Williams’ return for the Melbourne Grand Slam remains in doubt, Victoria Azarenka pulled out of Auckland and US Open champion Sloane Stephens is out of Brisbane.