(Reuters) – Rafa Nadal has withdrawn from next week’s season-opening exhibition event in Abu Dhabi due to ongoing fitness problems, the world number one has said.
The 16-time grand slam champion, who won the French and U.S. Opens earlier this year, withdrew from the ATP Finals in November after struggling with a knee injury during his round-robin defeat by Belgian David Goffin.
The 31-year-old Spaniard, who has previously played at the tournament on eight occasions, will be replaced by compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut.
“It was a tough 2017 and I need to take my calendar in a different way in order to be ready,” Nadal told the Mubadala World Tennis Championships website.
“For this reason, I have sadly announced to the organizers and now to you fans that I won’t play this time in Abu Dhabi.”
Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic have also withdrawn from the tournament, which is held from Dec. 28-30.
The Australian Open, the first major of the new season, begins on Jan. 15.
(Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)