Late last week, Rafael Nadal pulled out of the Australian Open, the first Major of the year, citing a stomach virus. This is the second consecutive Grand Slam Nadal will sit out. He has not played a match since losing a five-set thriller to Lukas Rosol in the second round of Wimbledon. Even though there has been some speculation that the tendinitis in Nadal's left knee is the real reason for him skipping Melbourne, Nadal's personal doctor has released a statement saying he advised Rafa to take at least a week off because of a stomach virus, meaning he could not play as scheduled in Abu Dhabi this week. After the release of this statement, Rafa and Uncle Toni put out a statement talking about how they did not feel as though it would be appropriate for Nadal to play in Melbourne because he will not have enough time to properly prepare for the best-of-five format played at the Majors.
Whatever the reason may be, Nadal will not be in the draw in Melbourne, meaning fellow Spainard David Ferrer will be the No. 4 seed. As for Nadal's eventual return to the court, there is a lot of speculation that he will not be able to return to his former self. There is reason to think that a little bit of his edge and physical nature will be gone because of the many injuries he has been forced to overcome throughout his professional tennis career. Even if he does not return at 100%, he should still be able to be a major factor on clay, by far his best surface. He has shown that, as arguably the greatest clay-court tennis player of all time, he can dominate clay-court tournaments even when he is not totally healthy. As for grass and the hard courts of North American and the rest of the world, we can only hope that Rafael Nadal will be able to return to his elite status on the tennis court. His presence at tournaments brings with it a lot of excitement, as he is one of the most entertaining players in the world to watch.
With Rafa not in the picture at the Australian Open, it seems as though the year's first Major will be a three-horse race. Djokovic, Federer, and Murray will all have very good chances at winning the title. A lot will hinge on whether Murray finds himself in Novak's half of the draw or Federer's half. No matter where Murray is in the draw, these three men should find themselves in the semifinals of the year's first Major in just a few short weeks. It should be a great fortnight of tennis, and it all starts on January 14th Down Under. More comprehensive previews of the Australian Open will be posted once the Draws come out. We hope you all had a great holiday and New Year. 2013 should be another great year of tennis. Enjoy!