Fans saddened by latest Rafael Nadal setback

Rafael Nadal speaks to the media at the Australian Open. (Photo by Chaz Niell/Getty Images)

Tennis fans hoping to see Rafael Nadal back in action sooner rather than later were left gutted on Thursday when the Spanish champion announced he will not be taking part in next week’s ATP 500 event in Dubai.

The 20-time grand slam winner has been struggling with a back injury since before the Australian Open and said he still hasn’t fully recovered.

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The World No.2 skipped Spain’s ATP Cup ties in the lead-up to the year’s first grand slam, but still managed to reach the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park.

He did so without dropping a set before eventually losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas in a titanic five-set battle.

Rafael Nadal, pictured here in action against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australian Open.

Rafael Nadal in action against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australian Open. (Photo by Bai Xuefei/Xinhua via Getty)

The 34-year-old hasn’t played since that defeat and was awarded a wildcard to compete at the March 14-20 tournament in Dubai.

However he announced on Thursday that he will not be able to accept it.

“I would like to thank the @DDFTennis for the wild card invitation sent to me,” Nadal said on Twitter.

“We seriously thought about coming to play, but I don’t think I am ready to play yet.

“Once again thanks to the tournament’s kind invitation and best of luck with the tournament.

“And… special thanks to Tournament Director Salah Talak since I am aware of his efforts to ensure a smooth arrival to play Dubai during this unprecedented Coronavirus pandemic and difficult times for all.”

Fans expressed their sadness at the news and hoped Nadal recovered sooner rather than later.

Since the Australian Open Nadal has also withdrawn from events in Rotterdam and Acapulco.

He is still entered at the Miami Open, an ATP 1000 event to be held from March 24-April 4.

The Spanish champion is set to be usurped in the rankings by Russia’s Daniil Medvedev.

Federer suffers brutal loss in second match back

Meanwhile, Roger Federer earned a match point but ended up losing in the quarter-finals of his comeback tournament at the Qatar Open as Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili prevailed against the weary-looking Swiss 3-6 6-1 7-5.

In the second match of his return after 14 months out and two knee surgeries, Federer impressed in the first set on Thursday but then struggled to move as freely.

But the 20-time grand slam champion still had the chance to progress when he earned a break point in the decisive set while leading 5-4 – only for Basilashvili to survive, immediately take the crucial break himself and convert his third match point.

After winning in one hour and 50 minutes, Basilashvili, the World No.42, was left enthusing: “It is unbelievable because he is one of the greatest of all-time.

“To play him means so much to me. I’m very happy he came back to play, and to win against him is a dream come true.

“He was always my idol, and I am sure he is to many tennis players and fans, so I am unbelievably happy.”

In his first match in 14 months on Wednesday, Federer beat Dan Evans 7-6 (10-8), 3-6, 7-5.

with AAP

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