MADRID, Spain, July 19 – Defending champion Rafael Nadal has dropped out of the London Olympics because he is not in shape to compete, the Spanish tennis world number three said on Thursday, calling it one of the saddest days of his career.
“I am not in condition to compete in the London Olympics, so I will not be travelling as planned with the Spanish delegation to compete in them,” said Nadal, who had been recovering from a knee injury.
“Today is one of the saddest days of my career, as it was one of my greatest hopes and perhaps the most special moment to be the flag-bearer for Spain in the opening ceremony of the games in London,” he added in a statement.
“You can imagine how difficult it has been to take this decision.”
Nadal was knocked out of Wimbledon in the second round on June 28 in a shock defeat by Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic, who was then ranked 100th in the world.
Days later, the Spaniard announced he was taking two weeks off because of tendinitis in his knee but he was keen to be ready in time for the Olympics, which start on July 27.
“I have to think of my team-mates. I cannot be selfish and have to think of the good of Spanish sport, especially Spanish tennis, and let a team-mate play who is more prepared and in better condition to compete,” Nadal said on Thursday.
“I have pushed myself up to the last moment in my preparation and in my training, but it was not to be.”
Nadal claimed an Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games, prevailing in straight sets against Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez in the men’s singles final.
He has since added six Grand Slam titles to his honours list, culminating in a record seventh French Open success in June that took his tally of major singles honours to 11.
The summer months have often been characterised by injury problems for Nadal, with his principal career successes having mostly occurred during the clay season in the late spring.
It was the case once again this year, where he won titles at Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros without losing a single set.
He flew to Halle in Germany the day after his triumph in Paris to begin preparing for the grasscourt reason, but he was to succumb once again to wear and tear at Wimbledon.
Nadal’s withdrawal could open up the tournament for Roger Federer, who will hope for a quick-fire second success at the All England Club after his defeat of Andy Murray in the men’s Wimbledon final on July 8.
World number two Novak Djokovic will also be buoyed by Nadal’s absence in the Olympic tennis tournament, which reaches its conclusion on August 5.
In Nadal’s absence, Spain’s flag-bearers at the opening ceremony are likely to be sailing duo Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez.