Defending champion Rafael Nadal pulled out of the London Olympics with an undisclosed injury, leaving the tennis competition without one of its leading stars and robbing Spain’s team of its flag bearer for the opening ceremony.
“This is one of the saddest moments of my career,” Nadal said in a statement. “I have to think about my companions, I can’t be selfish and I have to think of what’s best for Spanish sport, especially tennis and Spanish players, and give fellow sportsmen with better preparation the chance to compete.
“I tried to hurry my preparations and training to the very last minute, but it was not to be.”
Nadal, ranked third in the world, won the French Open for a record seventh time this year but has struggled with left knee problems at times during the season. Shortly after winning his 11th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, he lost to 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol in the second round at Wimbledon.
Nadal, 26, has not played since and said he wasn’t in condition to compete at the Olympic tennis tournament – which also will be held at Wimbledon. He has won two Wimbledon titles and claimed gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The Spaniard had been the last of the four singles finalists from 2008 in the London Olympics. Men’s silver medal winner Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, who Nadal beat in straight sets in Beijing, and women’s finalists Elena Dementieva and Dinara Safina of Russia, will also be missing from the London Games.
Nadal’s absence leaves top-ranked Roger Federer of Switzerland and number two Novak Djokovic of Serbia as the favourites, although Wimbledon runner-up Andy Murray of Britain will again likely have a wave of home support as he tries to reach the final at the All England Club for the second time in less than a month.