BARCELONA, Spain — Just when Rafael Nadal had recovered from a knee injury, a stomach virus has delayed his return to tennis by a couple of months.
Nadal announced Friday he will miss next month’s Australian Open and probably won’t play again until the end of February. The Spaniard said he needs time to recover from the virus that already prevented him from coming back this week at Abu Dhabi.
Nadal has been sidelined since June with a knee injury, which forced him to miss the London Olympics and U.S. Open. He had planned to rejoin the ATP tour at the Qatar Open in Doha next month before the Jan. 14-27 Australian Open, but pulled out of both.
“We just hope he gets better quickly and we see him back on the tour as soon as possible,” Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said. “Tennis fans across the world have been missing him.”
While he is expected to recover from the virus in time for the year’s first Grand Slam tournament, Nadal and his team said he wouldn’t have the proper preparation for a five-set event.
Nadal stressed that his decision had nothing to do with the tendinitis in his left knee. That injury prompted him to take a break following a second-round loss to then 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon in June.
“My knee is much better and the rehabilitation process has gone well as predicted by the doctors,” Nadal said in a statement from his hometown of Manacor on the island of Mallorca. “But this virus didn’t allow me to practice this past week and therefore I am sorry to announce that I will not play in Doha and the Australian Open.”
The former No. 1 hopes to return at a tournament in Acapulco, Mexico, starting Feb. 27. He left open the possibility of playing at an earlier tournament if his recovery went well.
WORLD TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP: In Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, top-ranked Novak Djokovic routed David Ferrer 6-0, 6-3 on Friday to reach the final of the World Tennis Championship exhibition tournament.
Djokovic will face Spain’s Nicolas Almagro in the final. A last-minute replacement for Nadal, Almagro rallied from a set down to beat Janko Tipsarevic 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-2 in the second semifinal.
Looking for a strong start to the 2013 season, Djokovic wrapped up the first set in only 26 minutes. He struggled early on in the second as Ferrer broke the defending champion to go up 2-1.
But Djokovic broke back courtesy of a delicate drop shot and several crisp winners to make it 2-2. He then broke the fifth-ranked Spaniard a second time to go up 4-2 en route to an easy victory.
“I am definitely surprised with my game, considering the fact that this is the first match of the official season for me,” Djokovic said.
“This is a great surface when preparing for Australia,” he said. “We love it here.”