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Rafa a serious doubt after exhibition defeat


 

Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:36

Rafael Nadal’s tragic will-he-won’t-he Wimbledon saga took a turn for the worse today as he made an unconvincing return to competitive action.

Playing for the first time since losing in Paris nearly three weeks ago, the world No.1 lost 6-4 6-3 to Lleyton Hewitt at the Fortis Bank Tennis Classic.

Nadal was diagnosed with chronic tendinitis in both knees shortly after his first ever defeat at Roland Garros, and doubts have been raised over the Spaniard’s long-term fitness.

After pulling out of last week’s Queen’s Club AEGON Classic to rest his knees, the sight of the Wimbledon champion training on the Aorangi Park practice courts yesterday sent out a positive message to the tennis world.

“His knees are not good, he cannot bend, if it’s me, I’m [heading] to Mallorca” – Toni Nadal

There were further good signs when the Spaniard knocked with Andy Murray this morning, and it was thought that Nadal would soon declare himself fit to defend his crown. Yesterday’s announcement that he was to play an extra match today at the exhibition event at the Hurlingham Club seemed to be further evidence that things were taking a turn for the better.

But Nadal – playing without tell-tale knee tape – looked a step slow on court, his movement undoubtedly hampered by his injured knees.

And although the world No.1 declined to comment after the match, Toni Nadal, Rafa’s uncle and coach, expressed his concerns for his young charge’s prospects, with four days to go until the Championships.

At the moment its very difficult to play at Wimbledon. His knees are not good, he cannot bend, Toni Nadal said. “It seems his treatments aren’t enough.”

This is his first match, we wait until tomorrow,” he said, adding: “if it’s me, I’m [heading] to Mallorca,” referring to the island where Nadal grew up.

Former Wimbledon champion Hewitt gave Nadal a stern test from the start, forcing the Spaniard to save two break points in the first game before holding serve.

The Australian broke to love for a 3-2 lead after Nadal made three unforced errors, and produced a flurry of aces to consolidate to love.

Nadal brought up his first break point in the first game of the second set, saved with a service winner, and reached another break point at 2-2 with a good forehand volley, but Hewitt produced a forehand winner down the line before holding.

Hewitt then broke again for a 4-3 lead after Nadal sent a forehand long, and converted his second match point when Nadal sent a backhand long.

Nadal is scheduled to play again on Friday against Stanislas Wawrinka. He will then decide if he is fit enough to defend his Wimbledon title.

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