Rafael Nadal’s stomach virus, which sidelined him from the Qatar Open, will also shut him out of the Australian Open – this year’s first Grand Slam tournament.

The illness is keeping Nadal, who has not competed since June, from making his widely anticipated return at Abu Dhabi this week. The Australian Open begins Jan. 14.

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.

- Rafael Nadal

Nadal said Friday his withdrawals had nothing to do with the tendinitis in his left knee, which forced him to take a break last summer following his second-round loss at Wimbledon to then 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol. Nadal also missed the London Olympics.

"My knee is much better and the rehabilitation process has gone well, as predicted by the doctors," Nadal said in a statement. "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."

The former No. 1 player hopes to return at Acapulco, México, starting Feb. 27. However, he did not rule out playing an earlier tournament if his recovery went well enough.

"I always said that my return to competition will be when I am in the right conditions to play," he said. "And after all this time away from the courts, I'd rather not accelerate the comeback and prefer to do things well."

Nadal, ranked No. 4, won the Australian Open in 2009. Last year, he lost to top-ranked Novak Djokovic in a title match that lasted 5 hours, 53 minutes, the longest recorded Grand Slam final.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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