Nadal faces D-Day as fitness worries cloud title defence

Champion looks tentative in exhibition match and could pull out of Wimbledon today
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The Independent Online

Rafael Nadal is set to make a final decision today on whether he will defend his title at Wimbledon next week. The 23-year-old Spaniard, who has been suffering with a knee injury, played his first match of the year on grass yesterday when he appeared at the BNP Paribas Fortis Tennis Classic at the Hurlingham Club in Fulham.

A 6-4, 6-3 defeat to Lleyton Hewitt in an exhibition match will be of no concern, but Nadal, who did not wear any strapping on his knees, appeared to play tentatively.

Nadal will play another match at Hurlingham today, against Stanislas Wawrinka. He could pull out of Wimbledon any time before his first match – the champion traditionally opens the Centre Court programme on the first Monday – but said yesterday that he would decide this afternoon. "Today was as close to reality as I could get," he said. "It was a real test. I will come back tomorrow and play again and then make my decision."

Nadal withdrew from last week's Aegon Championships at Queen's Club in London after complaining of tendonitis in both knees. He went to Barcelona for tests and recuperated at home before flying to Britain this week. Although he practised for three hours at Wimbledon on both Tuesday and Wednesday this week, Nadal did not push himself. On the second day he started playing a set against Andy Murray but they finished after seven games because of the poor weather.

Nadal is suffering from inflammation in the tendons connecting his quadriceps muscles with his kneecaps. It is a long-term problem. At the end of last year he missed both the Tennis Masters Cup and Spain's Davis Cup final victory over Argentina.

The knee injury was almost certainly a major factor in Nadal's shocking defeat to Robin Soderling at the French Open, which ended the Spaniard's unbeaten 31-match run at Roland Garros. Nadal said later that he had been in discomfort for several months.

Roger Federer meanwhile took time off from his Wimbledon preparations to take a look at the new roof on Centre Court. "Wimbledon is awesome," he wrote on his Facebook page last night. "There is no place like it in the world."

Gaël Monfils is a definite absentee from Wimbledon after the Frenchman withdrew with a wrist injury. The No 14 seed pulled out of the Aegon Championships last week after hurting his wrist in a second-round victory over Andrey Golubev. Monfils, who withdrew last year with a shoulder injury, will be replaced in today's draw by a lucky loser from qualifying.