Rafael Nadal: Why Skipping 2013 Australian Open Is Vital for His Career

Steven SlivkaCorrespondent IIIJanuary 9, 2013

A stomach virus has prevented Rafael Nadal from making his return in this year's Australian Open.
A stomach virus has prevented Rafael Nadal from making his return in this year's Australian Open.Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Rafael Nadal had a down year in 2012 as a knee injury in late June forced him to withdraw from competition after his second-round loss to Lukas Rosal in Wimbledon.

Nadal's knee kept him out of the U.S. Open in September, but he was sure he'd be ready for the Australian Open four months later.

That's not the case.

According to Nadal, a stomach virus, rather than a bum knee that is forcing the 26-year-old Spaniard to skip the tennis season's first major (via atpworldtour.com):

My knee is much better and the rehabilitation process has gone well as predicted by the doctors, but this virus didn’t allow me to practise this past week and therefore I am sorry to announce that I will not play in Doha and the Australian Open, as we had initially scheduled.

It's unfortunate that the all-too-common stomach virus has sidelined one of the game's greatest stars. In a sense, it's the equivalent of Tiger Woods missing the Masters or Tom Brady missing a playoff game because of a virus that could easily affect anybody.

Nadal's absence in this year's Australian Open will relieve some of the stress off the rest of the competition, including Nadal's arch-rival Roger Federer, and last year's champion Novak Djokovic.

The 2012 Australian Open was arguably the greatest final match in tennis history when Djokovic beat Nadal in five sets in a duel that lasted nearly six hours.

If Nadal attempted to play in this year's Australian Open, no way would he would be able to last that long with an ailing stomach.

Heck, it would be nearly impossible for anybody to last that long in a tennis match even without an ailing stomach.

Nadal's decision to skip the year's first major tournament speaks volume to how seriously he takes his career in a sport he's played professionally since he was 15.

He could easily go into the Australian Open with a stomach virus and get knocked out early because of fatigue or flu-like symptoms. He would be in the tournament, but he wouldn't be nearly as effective as he's always been.

Nadal realizes this, which is why it is best for him to skip the Australian and gear up for the French Open, a tournament in which he has only lost one match in since 2005.

When Nadal does return to the court, he will be nothing less than 100 percent.

His knee will be healthy, his stomach will be fine and he'll be as hungry as he's ever been after waiting an entire year to play in a major tournament.