Nadal out of Australian Open
World number four Rafael Nadal has pulled out of the Australian Open due to a stomach virus.
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The Spaniard has not played since suffering his shock second-round exit at Wimbledon to unheralded Czech Lukas Rosol.
He had been due to return from a knee injury at this week's exhibition event in Abu Dhabi but the virus forced him to withdraw.
Nadal has now decided to extend that absence to include the season's opening Grand Slam event in Melbourne.
Former world number one Nadal, a winner of 11 Grand Slam titles, including one Down Under in 2009, told the Australian Open's official website: "I am sorry and very sad to announce that I will not play in the Australian Open.
"My knee is coming along okay, but a stomach virus has left me unable to get ready in time to tackle the rigours of a grand slam.
"Because of the virus, I have been unable to get any match practice and simply would not be doing myself or my friends in Australia justice if I went down there so unprepared.
"You need your body to be at its best for the Australian Open.
"It was a difficult decision and I am extremely disappointed to be missing such a great event.
"I love coming to Melbourne and playing on Rod Laver Arena before the Australian crowds. It brings out the best in me.
"It hurts to have to wait another 12 months before I get another chance. In the meantime, the focus is now on desperately trying to get back on the tour."
Nadal has now targeted the Abierto Mexicano Telcel event in Acapulco which starts on February 25 for his comeback, although he remains optimistic of returning before that.
He added on Facebook: "As my team and doctors say, the safest thing to do is to do things well and this virus has delayed my plans of playing these weeks.
"I will have to wait until the Acapulco tournament to compete again although I could consider to play before at any other ATP event."
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said: "It is completely understandable and we really feel disappointed for him.
"But without any match practice and without sufficient lead up time on the practice court, it makes it virtually impossible for him to get his body ready.
"We just hope he gets better quickly and we see him back on the tour as soon as possible.
"Tennis fans across the world have been missing him. Our Australian Open staff will very much miss him and his team as he is not only a great player, but also a great guy with good people around him.
"We wish Rafa all the best. I am confident we will see him back on the tour soon and back in Australia for 2014, no doubt as one of the contenders for the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup."