Reigning world number one Novak Djokovic has said that 11-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal’s prolonged injury break is not only a loss for the Australian Open but for the entire sport of tennis.
Commenting on Nadal’s extended injury break, Djokovic said in a recent interview, "It is definitely a loss for the tournament, for tennis, for sport in general not to have Rafa playing still on the court. It's been, what, seven months since he's played his last official match.”
Nadal has not played a single match in close to seven months due to knee injury and now stomach virus. The Spaniard’s last match was his second round loss at the hands of the then world number 100 Lukas Rosol at last year’s Wimbledon.
The Spaniard had recovered from the knee injury in December and was set to make a comeback at the start of this season but the stomach virus came in his way. The 26-year-old then pulled out from the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha and the first Grand Slam of this year.
Nadal’s withdrawal from the Australian Open means that tennis fans won’t be able to witness a repeat of last year’s epic final. Djokovic defeated Nadal in five sets in the final at Melbourne Park last year, which was the longest Grand Slam final in the tennis history with a total duration of five hours and 50 minutes.
That epic match is considered to be the reason of Nadal’s knee problems last year. The Spaniard’s knees were already injury prone and the problem was triggered with that match.
Djokovic believes if Nadal would have been fully fit he would have never withdrawn from the Australian Open.
The Serbian stated, "I'm sure if he felt he was ready enough to play this tournament, best-of-five in the Australian summer that can be brutal and difficult to play, then he would come. He probably felt he needs more time to recover. I wish him a speedy recovery."
Nadal’s Australian Open final loss to Djokovic was his seventh straight at the hands of the Serbian but then he claimed three consecutive victories over him before going down due to injury.