World number one Rafael Nadal is in doubt for the Australian Open after aborting plans to play in lead-up events in Brisbane and Sydney.
Nadal hasn’t played since losing to David Goffin at the World Tour Finals in London and then immediately pulling out of the season-ending championships in mid-November with a knee injury.
The Spaniard was scheduled to return to the court at the season-opening Brisbane International starting on Saturday but says he’s not yet ready for competitive tennis.
Nadal reached the semi-finals in Brisbane early this year before returning to his first grand slam final in two-and-a-half years three weeks later at the Australian Open.
But having also withdrawn from the Fast4 exhibition event in Sydney on January 8 alongside Nick Kyrgios, Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov, the 16-times major winner is in a race against the clock to be fit for Melbourne Park.
“I had a great time there (in Brisbane in 2017) and it was a great start to the month I spent in Australia,” Nadal said.
“I will be seeing my Aussie fans when I land on the 4th in Melbourne and start there my preparation for the Australian Open.”
Serious concerns over Nadal’s fitness first surfaced last week when he cancelled a planned training block in Majorca with Portuguese player Joao Sousa.
Nadal may not be the only high-profile scratching from the Brisbane International, with five-times Open runner-up Andy Murray having delayed his planned Christmas arrival to Australia because of his chronic hip injury.