MADRID: French Open champion Rafa Nadal has been forced to withdraw from next month's Australian Open because of a stomach virus that has disrupted his recovery from a knee injury, the world number four said on Friday.
"My knee is much better and the rehabilitation process has gone well as predicted by the doctors, but this virus didn't allow me to practise this past week," the Spaniard, who has also pulled out of the Qatar Open in Doha, said in a statement.
"Therefore I am sorry to announce that I will not play in Doha and the Australian Open, as we had initially scheduled."
Nadal was due to make his competitive comeback after the knee injury sidelined him for six months at an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi this week.
The 26-year-old has not played since June when he suffered a shock defeat in the second round of Wimbledon to Czech Lukas Rosol. He had won the exhibition event in the United Arab Emirates in 2010 and 2011.
Nadal said doctors had advised a period of rest without any sport for the next seven days starting on Friday.
"As my team and doctors say, the safest thing to do is to do things well and this virus has delayed my plans of playing these weeks," he said.
"I will have to wait until the Acapulco tournament (at the end of February) to compete again although I could consider to play before at any other ATP event.
"I always said that my return to competition will be when I am in the right conditions to play and after all this time away from the courts I rather not accelerate the comeback and prefer to do things well."