Nadal withdraws from Brisbane because of thigh strain | News Coverage from USA

Nadal withdraws from Brisbane because of thigh strain

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal withdrew from the Brisbane International with a strained left thigh on the eve of his first scheduled competitive match of the season.

The second-ranked Nadal had a bye in the first round and arrived in Australia after withdrawing from an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi following one match.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t played a competitive match since September but said Wednesday he is working hard in practice and remains confident he will be ready to compete at the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 14 at Melbourne Park.

Nadal said he plans to keep practicing in Brisbane until the weekend, then travel to Melbourne via Sydney early next week. He played only nine tournaments during an injury-interrupted 2018 season, winning five titles.

The 32-year-old Spaniard said he had an MRI and doctors in Australia and in Spain told him that playing competitively this week wouldn’t heighten his risk of a more serious injury.

“I tried to play and I still wanted to play but the two doctors from here and the doctors from my confederation in Spain tell me … if I play here, there is a risk to don’t have the chance to play Melbourne,” Nadal said. “Everybody is telling me that it’s not a good idea to increase the possibility to make the strain a bigger problem.

“I feel that I can give a good level of tennis, but I can’t do my 100 percent. So if I don’t play here, I probably secure that I’m going to be 100 percent ready for Melbourne.”

Nadal had virtually forecast his withdrawal earlier in the tournament when he told a news conference he would prefer to play fewer tournaments and be at peak fitness for those events rather than trying to play through niggling injuries as he had in the past.

A right knee injury forced Nadal to retire from his U.S. Open semifinal, and he had ankle surgery at the start of November. He also missed big chunks of previous seasons because of injuries, but doesn’t think his body is letting him down.

“I really believe that I keep having tennis to play in my career,” he said at the news conference on Tuesday. “And I really feel that my body is not going worse every year.”

Taro Daniel, a lucky loser from qualifying, will take Nadal’s place in the Brisbane International draw and will play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round on Thursday.

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