Rafael Nadal to Skip Abu Dhabi Exhibition Due to Illness

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIDecember 25, 2012

The setbacks continue for modern tennis legend Rafael Nadal.

Although he was slated to return to the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Nadal indicated on his Facebook page Tuesday that doctors have advised him to skip the event due to a stomach virus.

My rehab has gone well, my knee feels good and I was looking forward to competing. Unfortunately doctors have informed me that my body needs to rest in order to fight this stomach virus. I would like to say sorry to all my fans in the United Arab Emirates and around the world, but I hope to play and win in Abu Dhabi again next year.

This is bad news for tennis fans who were looking forward to see Nadal return to competition after a six-month hiatus. But the good news is that the absence from Abu Dhabi doesn't have anything to do with an injury.

Nadal has had multiple knee issues in his prolific career, with the most recent trials and tribulations obviously coming in 2012.

After a shocking second-round loss in Wimbledon to 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol (h/t New York Times), it was revealed that the 11-time Grand Slam winner and Olympic gold medalist had a partial tear in his left patella tendon.

The ATP rankings demand its top players to play in most of the circuit's marquee tournaments, and Nadal's time away from the court has caused him to slip to No. 4 behind Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and most recent gold-medal winner Andy Murray.

It's already an uphill battle for Nadal to get back to his legendary form and contend for the top of the draw, as he's typically used to doing.

This illness isn't that big of a deal compared to the adversity he has faced in recent years, but it must be frustrating nonetheless for the 26-year-old, who won in Abu Dhabi in 2010 and 2011. It's only a six-man draw, but the exhibition always showcases many of the sport's marquee names and would have served as a competitive but comfortable return for Nadal.

Check back here for the latest on Nadal's status as his highly anticipated return to tennis approaches.