London (AFP) – Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from next week’s Wimbledon warm-up event at Queen’s Club as the world number one takes a break following his latest French Open triumph.
Nadal crushed Dominic Thiem to clinch his 11th French Open title on Sunday, but the Spaniard hinted after the final that the toll on his body might force him to miss part of the grass-court campaign.
The 32-year-old is drained after playing 27 matches on clay over the last two months and, after consulting with his medical team, he confirmed on Wednesday that he won’t play at Queen’s this year.
“Queen’s is a great event, I have happy memories of winning the title in 2008 and I wanted to come back this year. But it has been a very long clay court season for me with great results,” Nadal said in a statement released by tournament organisers.
“I would like to say sorry to the tournament organisers and most of all to the fans that were hoping to see me play, but I have spoken to my doctors and I need to listen to what my body is telling me.”
Nadal has admitted he finds it hard to make the transition from clay to grass, with the low bounce on the surface in England often threatening to aggravate the knee injuries that have plagued him in the latter stages of his glittering career.
It is the third consecutive year Nadal has entered Queen’s only to pull out before it has started.
“We are obviously disappointed that Rafa has decided that he is unable to play this year, but we wish him well and hope to see him on our courts in the future,” said tournament director Stephen Farrow.
Nadal has won three of the last five Grand Slams, taking the French Open two years in a row and lifting the US Open trophy in 2017.
– Golden period –
He enjoyed another golden period on his favoured clay this year, claiming the French Open, Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome titles.
But his absence from Queen’s and the subsequent lack of match practice on grass will raise doubts about his chances of a third title at Wimbledon, which gets under way on July 2.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion last won at the All England Club in 2010 and hasn’t been past the last 16 since 2011.
Roger Federer is the reigning Wimbledon champion and the Swiss legend, who secured the Australian Open in January, will be firmly favoured to win his favourite tournament for a ninth time after resting during the clay campaign.
In Nadal’s absence, struggling former world number one Novak Djokovic is currently the biggest name in the Queen’s draw after accepting a wild card entry earlier this week.
Andy Murray still hopes to return from hip surgery in time to play at Queen’s after being sidelined since Wimbledon last year.
The former world number one is expected to reveal whether he will feature at Queen’s by the weekend.
Juan Martin del Potro, Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov are among the other big names competing in the prestigious west London event.