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Rafael Nadal officially withdraws from Australian Open

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Rafael Nadal — Getty Images

Health has always been a concern with Rafael Nadal, but things are starting to get so serious that his opportunity to ever be competitive again in Grand Slams could come into question.

The 11-time Slam champion officially announced he would not be at next month's Australian Open (also skipping Qatar Open) because of a stomach virus, but some think it might have more to do with his aching knee than something bad he ate.

Nadal said in a statement, "My knee is much better and the rehabilitation process has gone well as predicted by the doctors, but this virus didn't allow me to practice this past week, and therefore I am sorry to announce that I will not play in Doha and the Australian Open."

[Related: Novak Djokovic the odds-on favorite for Aussie Open]

Problem is, others aren't necessarily buying it. Spain's Nicolas Almagro said in a media session on Friday that he is a little shocked that Nadal won't be making the trip to Australia, and he didn't mention much about the virus when talking about why he thought Nadal was skipping out on the first Grand Slam of the year.

"Well, of course it's a surprise, we were talking with him and he told me he’s not 100 percent right now and wants to wait a little bit. He doesn't want to play in Melbourne, it's five sets, his knee's not really good, he's not ready for that. Well, we are waiting for him, we need to wait until South America, in one month, maybe he will be ready."

It's a shame that Nadal has gone from making the finals in Melbourne a year ago and then winning the French Open to basically playing on one knee at Wimbledon and having to completely miss the U.S. Open, but I'd say it's smart if he can wait as long as possible to come back in hopes of actually making a serious return.

Like Nadal said in his book, Rafa, there were times he never thought he'd be able to play tennis again, and while he has made some incredible comebacks in the past, the 26-year-old isn't exactly a spring chicken anymore in terms of tennis years. He has years ahead of him to be competitive, but rushing back when his health isn't 100 percent seems shortsighted if he really wants to be competitive late in his career. The French Open will always be Nadal's best shot at a Slam, and heading into that as healthy as possible seems to make the most sense.

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