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Rafael Nadal withdraws from Brisbane International because of thigh strain

AP

Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the Brisbane International on the eve of his first scheduled competitive match of the season because of a strained left thigh.

Andy Murray is also done, having lost his second-round match less than an hour later.

Both players arrived in Australia after long injury breaks, and neither had played a competitive match since September.

At least Murray completed two matches. Playing on a protected ranking after an injury-interrupted 18 months, he beat James Duckworth before losing to fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2. There were signs in both matches that he is still bothered by the hip problem which has derailed his last two seasons.

Murray, a three-time major champion, recovered a service break in the first set and was in the match at 5-5 until Medvedev won six straight games.

“As you play up the levels, whether it’s issues with your game, like if you’re not serving as well or if you’re not moving as well, the better players exploit that,” Murray said. “He is a top player and is able to do that. I need to try and find a way of working out how to get around some of the things I struggle with a little bit now.”

The second-ranked Nadal had a bye in the first round and arrived in Australia after withdrawing from an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi following one match.

He played only nine tournaments during an injury-interrupted 2018 season, winning five titles.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t played a competitive match since September but says he is confident he will be ready to compete at the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 14 at Melbourne Park.

Nadal says he plans to keep practicing in Brisbane until the weekend, then travel to Melbourne via Sydney early next week.

“I tried to play and I still wanted to play but the two doctors from here and the doctors from my confederation in Spain tell me . . . if I play here, there is a risk (I won’t) have the chance to play Melbourne,” Nadal said. “Everybody is telling me that it’s not a good idea to increase the possibility to make the strain a bigger problem.

“I feel that I can give a good level of tennis, but I can’t do my 100 percent. So if I don’t play here, (I’m) probably secure that I’m going to be 100 percent ready for Melbourne.”

Nadal had virtually forecast his withdrawal earlier in the tournament when he told a news conference he would prefer to play fewer tournaments and be at peak fitness for those events rather than trying to play through nagging injuries as he had in the past.

A right knee injury forced Nadal to retire from his U.S. Open semifinal, and he had ankle surgery at the start of November. He also missed big chunks of previous seasons because of injuries, but doesn’t think his body is letting him down.

Taro Daniel, a lucky loser from qualifying, will take Nadal’s place in the Brisbane International draw and will play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round on Thursday.