Photo: Sergio LlameraRafael Nadal (ESP)
Spain’s Rafael Nadal will not be able to defend his Olympic gold medal at London 2012 after finally succumbing to a knee injury that has plagued him since Wimbledon.
Nadal has been replaced in the singles by Spanish teammate Feliciano Lopez, while Marc Lopez - no relation - steps in to play doubles with Marcel Granollers.
Following his shock exit against Lukas Rosol in the Wimbledon second round, Nadal has been battling to overcome a tendinitis knee problem in time to return to The All England Club for the Olympics.
However, the event has arrived too quickly for the world No. 3, who was scheduled to carry the Spanish flag at the opening ceremony, and today he took the difficult decision to withdraw.
“I am not in the condition to compete in the Olympic Games in London and therefore I will not travel as I had planned with the Spanish delegation to compete in the Games,” said Nadal.
“I have to think about my teammates. I cannot be selfish and I have to think about what is better for the Spanish sport, especially the Spanish tennis and allow one of my teammates to play with a better preparation and in better conditions for the competition. I have hurried my preparation until the last moment, my training, but it has not been possible.
“Today is one of the saddest days of my career because this was one of my biggest dreams and probably the most special moment was being the flag bearer of Spain in the opening ceremony of the Games in London, so you can imagine how difficult it has been for me to take this decision.”
Feliciano Lopez, ranked No. 30, is already entered in the doubles with David Ferrer and now he's also playing singles in place of Nadal. The 30-year-old, who made his only previous Olympic appearance at Athens 2004, was well within the original singles cut-off, but missed out because of the strength in depth of the Spanish team.
Marc Lopez wasn't scheduled to play at London 2012, so Nadal's injury has given him the opportunity to make his Olympic debut, playing alongside Granollers. The 30-year-old has a doubles world ranking of No. 16.