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By Erik Gudris

Rafael Nadal (December 28, 2012) -- Rafael Nadal's absence from the pro tour continues as he announced he will be unable to compete at next month's Australian Open.

In a statement released this morning, Nadal cited his issues with an ongoing stomach virus as the reason for his withdrawal from the first Grand Slam of the new season.

"I am sorry and very sad to announce that I will not play in the Australian Open. My knee is coming along okay, but a stomach virus has left me unable to get ready in time to tackle the rigours of a Grand Slam. Because of the virus, I have been unable to get any match practice and simply would not be doing myself or my friends in Australia justice if I went down there so unprepared. You need your body to be at its best for the Australian Open."

"It was a difficult decision and I am extremely disappointed to be missing such a great event. I love coming to Melbourne and playing on Rod Laver Arena before the Australian crowds. It brings out the best in me. It hurts to have to wait another 12 months before I get another chance. In the meantime, the focus is now on desperately trying to get back on the tour."

Tournament director Craig Tiley, who back in October was excited to announce that Nadal had sent him a text message assuring Tiley he would play the event, confirmed the Spanish superstar's news.

"It is completely understandable and we really feel disappointed for him," Tiley said. "But without any match practice and without sufficient lead up time on the practice court, it makes it virtually impossible for him to get his body ready." Tiley added, "We wish Rafa all the best. I am confident we will see him back on the tour soon and back in Australia for 2014, no doubt as one of the contenders for the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup."

"It is true we have been quite unlucky with this but there is nothing we can do," said Nadal's coach and uncle Toni Nadal.

Nadal's announcement comes just a few days after he pulled out of the Abu Dhabi exhibition event being held this week. Nadal emphasized in his statement that he hopes to return to action in February at the ATP tournament in Acapulco, but did not rule out that he might attempt to play earlier than that, possibly during the "golden swing" of clay court events in Latin America.

Since he will not be able to defend his ranking points earned by reaching last year's men's finals in Melbourne, it is expected that Nadal will fall out of the top four of the ATP rankings at the end of January. This would mark the first time Nadal is not part of the top four since May of 2005.

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)


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