Rafael Nadal pulls out of Australian Open

World number four has not played since Wimbledon

Rafael Nadal has announced that he will not participate in the 2013 Australian Open.

The world number four has been sidelined with a knee injury since a shock second-round exit at Wimbledon but had been on the verge of a comeback.

But a stomach virus, which forced the Spaniard to pull out of an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi this week, has disrupted Nadal's plans, so much so that he will have to miss the first Grand Slam of the year.

"I am sorry and very sad to announce that I will not play in the Australian Open," the 26-year-old said in a statement.

"My knee is coming along okay, but a stomach virus has left me unable to get ready in time to tackle the rigours of a grand slam.

"Because of the virus, I have been unable to get any match practice and simply would not be doing myself or my friends in Australia justice if I went down there so unprepared.

"You need your body to be at its best for the Australian Open.

"It was a difficult decision and I am extremely disappointed to be missing such a great event.

"I love coming to Melbourne and playing on Rod Laver Arena before the Australian crowds. It brings out the best in me.

"It hurts to have to wait another 12 months before I get another chance. In the meantime, the focus is now on desperately trying to get back on the tour."

The 11 time Grand Slam winner was a beaten finalist in last year's Australian Open, losing to Novak Djokovic after an epic contest that last 5 hours and 53 minutes - the longest major singles final in history.

Nadal will now target a defence of his French Open title.

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