Rafael Nadal has been replaced by fellow Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship draw in Abu Dhabi.
Earlier in the day, Spanish daily, Marca, had reported that Nadal was pulling out of the Abu Dhabi showpiece as he continues to recover from a right knee injury that disrupted the tail-end of his 2017 season, forcing him to withdraw from the remainder of the ATP Finals in London after playing the opening match against David Goffin last month.
Before the tournament officially announced the change in the line-up, Spaniard Bautista Agut took to social media to share the news.
“Great news for me to share with you that I will compete in the exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi. A great way to start the season. I hope that Rafa gets well soon!” said Bautista Agut.
Nadal reportedly cancelled a training stint with Portugal’s Joao Sousa at his academy in Mallorca that was meant to take place from December 18-22. According to Marca, the world No. 1 consulted with his doctor in Barcelona last Monday and is in a race against time to be ready for his official 2018 start in Brisbane, which kicks off on December 31.
“I am very sorry and disappointed to announce that I won’t be competing this year at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship,” Nadal said in a statement released by MWTC. ”This would have been my ninth participation in the tournament where I love to play and marking the beginning of my season.
“It was a tough 2017 and I need to take my calendar in a different way in order to be ready. For this reason, I have sadly announced to the organisers and now to you fans that I won’t play this time in Abu Dhabi. I really want to thank them for understanding and I am sending a special warm message to my fans in the UAE and in Abu Dhabi in particular.”
Following the withdrawal of Nadal, as well as Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic, the tournament in Abu Dhabi (December 28-30) will now feature Novak Djokovic, who has already landed in Dubai, Dominic Thiem, Pablo Carreno Busta, Kevin Anderson, Bautista Agut, and Andrey Rublev.