Rafael Nadal on Wednesday withdrew from the season-opening Brisbane International after an MRI revealed a slight strain of his left thigh. Nadal, who had a first round bye, was scheduled to play his second round match against Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Thursday. However, after conferring with his doctors he decided to withdraw to ensure he would be fit to play the Australian Open later this month. Nadal, the current world number two, has not played a main tour event since a knee problem forced him to retire during his US Open semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro in September. The 32-year-old had surgery on his ankle in November to remove a loose intra-articular body and only resumed training three weeks ago.
He played the opening round at an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi last week, where he lost to South African Kevin Anderson. "I feel good, but after a long period of time without competing, I felt the leg tightening a little bit in Abu Dhabi in the first match," he said. "That's why I didn't play the second (match). So I came here. I did an MRI, and it shows a very small strain on the left thigh, but it's there."
Nadal said doctors were confident he would be fit to play in Melbourne.
"They say that it's a very small thing, but it can become a big thing, because a strain in the muscle is dangerous," he said. "When you increase the intensity on the muscle when competing, then there is a big risk to make it something bigger. Today it's not big. I feel better than four days ago. Probably I'm 100 per cent in five days. And then I have plenty of time to prepare for Melbourne."
Nadal admitted he is facing a race against time to be fit for the Australian Open but insists his aim remains to win the Australian Open. "We'll see how the things improve. And being honest, I feel myself playing well. I feel myself playing at a good level of tennis. And I feel myself with very high motivation to compete and to play. And was terrible news for me that things were not the way that I planned, but coming back from a period of time outside of the competition and coming back from a surgery, you know, there's always a chance that this kind of stuff happens. It happened in Abu Dhabi. But I really believe that I will be 100 percent ready for Melbourne," Nadal said.