MADRID: Rafa Nadal pulled out of Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday, saying he took the decision after consultations with his team in a bid to prolong his career.

The 35-year-old Spaniard said the two-week gap between the French Open and Wimbledon — which starts on June 28 — was not enough time for him to recuperate after a demanding claycourt season where he played in five tournaments.

Nadal, who reached the French Open semifinals last week but lost to Novak Djokovic, has won the title at Wimbledon twice, in 2008 and 2010. He also won the Olympic gold medal in singles at the 2008 Beijing Games and in doubles at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

“I have decided not to participate at this year’s Championships at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” Nadal said on Twitter.

“It’s never an easy decision to take but after listening to my body and discussing it with my team I understand that it is the right decision.

“The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy, that is to compete at the highest level and keep fighting for those professional and personal goals at the maximum level of competition.”

Nadal, a 20-time Grand Slam winner, played at the Monte Carlo Masters, Barcelona, Madrid Masters and Rome Masters before the French Open.

“The fact that there has only been two weeks between RG [Roland Garros] and Wimbledon, didn’t make it easier on my body to recuperate after the always demanding clay court season,” he added.

“They have been two months of great effort and the decision I take is focused looking at the mid and long-term.”

Nadal sent a “special message” to fans in Britain and Japan in particular.

“The Olympic Games always meant a lot and they were always a priority as a Sports person, I found the spirit that every sports person in the world wants to live,” he wrote. “I personally had the chance to live 3 of them and had the honour to be the flag bearer for my country.”

Nadal will be replaced as third seed at Wimbledon by defeated French Open finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas. His absence from Wimbledon means Djokovic, 34, will be an even stronger favourite to win the tournament for the sixth time.

Eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer, 39, is struggling to find his form after returning from knee surgery. He lost in the second round of the ATP grass court tournament in Halle on Wednesday after pulling out ahead of the fourth round of the French Open.

If Djokovic wins at the All England Club he would join Nadal and Federer on 20 Grand Slam titles and would require just the US Open, which starts in late August, to complete the calendar Grand Slam.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2021

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