World No. 4 Rafael Nadal said Friday that a stomach flu will prevent him from taking part in the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.

The Spaniard, sidelined since June with a knee injury, had planned to return to competition in this week's exhibition event in Abu Dhabi, but the intestinal virus forced him to bow out.

Besides the Australian Open, which begins Jan. 14, Nadal will miss next week's Qatar Open.

Doctors told the tennis great he needed at least a week to recover from the virus.

"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 said in a statement.

The 11-time Grand Slam champion said he expects to take part in the Acapulco Open, starting Feb. 27, but may return earlier if he feels ready.

"We consider not appropriate to play the Australian Open since we will not have enough preparation for a greater competition which is a Grand Slam tournament," Rafa's coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, said in the statement. "It is simply not conceivable that his first event is a best of five sets event, he wouldn't be ready for that."

Nadal began the summer of 2012 on a high note by capturing a record 7th French Open title with a victory over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the final, but he has not played since a shocking second-round loss at Wimbledon. EFE