Rafael Nadal withdraws from Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament

Nadal, who has won the pre-season tournament four times in the past, follows both Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka in pulling out of the tournament which starts next Thursday.

Rafael Nadal withdraws from Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament
Rafael Nadal celebrates after taking the title last year (Getty/Francois Nel)

World number one Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the Mubadala World Tennis Championship next week, with the Spaniard not yet fully fit ahead of the start of the 2018 ATP season.

Nadal has won the event, an exhibition that takes place in Abu Dhabi the week before the season begins, four out of the nine times it has been held and has won the event the past two years, though is still not at 100 percent following his withdrawal midway through the ATP World Tour Finals last month.

Nadal beat David Goffin to take the title in Abu Dhabi last December (Getty/Francois Nel)
Nadal beat David Goffin to take the title in Abu Dhabi last December (Getty/Francois Nel)

The Spaniard will be replaced by his compatriot, Roberto Bautista Agut, in Abu Dhabi, though Nadal’s withdrawal is another significant blow for the event with Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic having already pulled out of the tournament. World number five Dominic Thiem is now set to be the top side.

Nadal dealt huge blow heading into 2018

2017 was undoubtedly hugely successful for Nadal, with the Spaniard finishing the year as the world number one and winning two Grand Slam titles, though this withdrawal may not bode well heading into the new season.

There were concerns about his fitness heading into the World Tour Finals last month, and they were proved to be justified after he withdrew following his opening match against David Goffin with an injury. Though it was believed that Nadal had been practicing well ahead of the exhibition, rumors about his fitness began to grow earlier this week after Joao Sousa confirmed that the 16-time Grand Slam champion had canceled their scheduled practice session, and it now appears that Nadal needs some extra time to prepare for the new season.

Like Nadal, Stan Wawrinka has also withdrawn from the event (Getty/David Ramos)
Like Nadal, Stan Wawrinka has also withdrawn from the event (Getty/David Ramos)

Nadal’s withdrawal due to a longstanding injury concern echoes the troubles of both Wawrinka and Raonic, both of whom have been forced to withdraw from Abu Dhabi with the same injury issues that saw them prematurely end their 2017 seasons. The trio are not the only ATP players struggling with injuries they sustained last season, with Andy Murray reportedly still struggling with a hip injury and Kei Nishikori withdrawing from the Brisbane International.

With Nadal withdrawing, it is his fellow Spaniard in Bautista Agut who is replacing him at the tournament. The exhibition is now set to be headlined by Thiem and Pablo Carreno Busta in terms of rankings, with Kevin Anderson, Andrey Rublev, and former world number one and multiple Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic (returning after his own injury issues) completing the field.