Rafael Nadal wthdraws from Australian Open after fresh injury blow

The 37-year-old is returning to Spain for treatment (Picture: Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal has been forced to withdraw from the Australian Open on the eve of the tournament after picking up a fresh injury.

After 12 months out of action, the 37-year-old returned to the court in Brisbane last week for his first event back on the tour and picked up very encouraging wins over Dominic Thiem and Jason Kubler.

But he was defeated 5-7 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 by Aussie Jordan Thompson in a gruelling match on Friday which lasted three hours and 25 minutes.

Nadal looked exhausted in the third set and required a medical time out for treatment on his troublesome left thigh.

The Spaniard said he was ‘a little bit scared’ about the injury afterwards but was hopeful it would only be a minor issue, though that has not proved to be the case and he will now miss the Australian Open and return to Spain for treatment.

Writing on social media, Nadal explained: ‘During my last match in Brisbane I had a small problem on a muscle that as you know made me worried.

‘Once I got to Melbourne I have had the chance to make an MRI and I have micro tear on a muscle, not in the same part where I had the injury and that’s good news.

‘Right now I am not ready to compete at the maximum level of exigence in five sets matches. I’m flying back to Spain to see my doctor, get some treatment and rest.

‘I have worked very hard during the year for this comeback and as I always mentioned my goal is to be at my best level in three months.

‘Within the sad news for me for not being able to play in front of the amazing Melbourne crowds, this is not very bad news and we all remain positive with the evolution for the season.

‘I really wanted to play here in Australia and I have had the chance to play a few matches that made me very happy and positive. Thanks all for the support and see you soon! Rafa.’

The qualifiers for the Australian Open begin later this evening – Monday morning in Melbourne – though Nadal had used a Protected Ranking slot to secure a place in the main draw, which starts in a week’s time.

More to follow…

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