Tennis legend Rafael Nadal has been forced out of the Australian Open with a new hip injury.
In a devastating blow to the tournament, the 22-time grand slam champion made the announcement on his social media.
Nadal had only just returned to the court this week in Brisbane after nearly a year on the sidelines following hip surgery.
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The 37-year-old said he was flying home to Spain to see his doctor after scans revealed a muscle tear.
“Hi all, during my last match in Brisbane I had a small problem on a muscle that as you know made me worried,” Nadal tweeted.
“Once I got to Melbourne I have had the chance to make an MRI and I have micro tear on a muscle, not in the same part where I had the injury and that’s good news.
“Right now I am not ready to compete at the maximum level of exigence in 5 sets matches. I’m flying back to Spain to see my doctor, get some treatment and rest.”
He followed up with another tweet stressing it’s not all bad news for the season ahead as he hopes to challenge at the French Open, which he has won a staggering 14 times.
Nadal received treatment during his loss to Jordan Thompson. Credit: Getty Images
“I have worked very hard during the year for this comeback and as I always mentioned my goal is to be at my best level in 3 months,” he wrote.
“Within the sad news for me for not being able to play in front of the amazing Melbourne crowds, this is not very bad news and we all remain positive with the evolution for the season.
“I really wanted to play here in Australia and I have had the chance to play a few matches that made me very happy and positive. Thanks all for the support and see you soon! Rafa.”
Nadal’s withdrawal will inevitably raise concerns over the former world No.1’s ability to get back to his best.
He had looked good in his two matches in Brisbane where he beat Dominic Thiem and Jason Kubler. He was on track for another victory over Aussie Jordan Thompson before suffering the injury and losing in three sets.
He received treatment and then finished the match before admitting his fears, given the pain was in the region of the hip that he chose to have operated on to continue his career.
Nadal had been watering down expectations but his level of play had inspired discussion that he could challenge 24-time major winner Novak Djokovic in Melbourne later this month.