(Reuters) - Rafa Nadal has pulled out of this week’s Brisbane International due to a minor thigh strain, but the Spaniard is hopeful that he can shake off the problem in time for the Australian Open later this month.
Nadal endured an injury-plagued 2018 season that saw him contest only nine tournaments due to hip, knee, abdomen and ankle injuries and the world number two said the decision to skip the season-opener was precautionary.
“I still wanted to play... but if I play here, there is a important risk to (not) have the chance to play Melbourne,” Nadal, who was due to face Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round on Thursday, said in a statement.
“It’s a small thing that can become a much bigger... when you compete the intensity on the muscle it can get worse... I feel better than I did four days ago... it’s a risk to damage my body for one month if I play here.”
The 32-year-old did not play after retiring against Juan Martin del Potro in their U.S. Open semi-final last September and underwent ankle surgery two months later.
He lost a three-set exhibition match against South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in Abu Dhabi last week and had indicated that he was fighting fit ahead of the Brisbane event.
However, an MRI scan revealed otherwise.
“I have to be ready to understand that this kind of stuff happens when you’re coming back from injuries. I have to accept and keep going,” Nadal, who had withdrawn from the tournament last year as well, added.
Lucky loser Taro Daniel will replace Nadal in the second round against Tsonga.
Despite an injury-curtailed 2018 season, Nadal managed to win five titles last year, including a record-extending 11th French Open title that took his Grand Slam tally to 17.
The Australian Open begins in Melbourne on Jan. 14.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly and Christian Radnedge