Rafael Nadal concern for Melbourne

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Rafael Nadal’s preparations for the Australian Open have taken a hit after he was forced to withdraw from the Brisbane International with a thigh injury.

The world number two, who missed the ATP Tour Finals in November to have ankle surgery after an abdominal problem, says his decision to withdraw from the Brisbane event is a precautionary measure and he hopes to be fit for the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne.

“I did an MRI and it shows a small staring on my left thigh. I tried to play, I wanted to play, but recommendations from the doctors [were to not play],” said Nadal.

He added: “It’s a small thing that can become a much bigger. When you compete the intensity on the muscle it can get worse. I feel better than I did four days ago. It’s a risk to damage my body for one month if I play here.”

Nadal, 32, had been set to face Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round in Brisbane after being handed a first round bye as the top seed.

Japan’s Taro Daniel, who lost in qualifying for the Brisbane International, will replace Nadal against Tsonga.

Nadal is 7.50 to win the Australian Open outright, ATP Finals winner Alexander Zverev is available at 9.50 and defending champion Roger Federer is 7.50.

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