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Rafael Nadal has sparked fears that he may miss the upcoming Australian Open after withdrawing from Spain’s ATP Cup opener against Australia with a “stiff Lower back”. The world number two was set to face Alex de Minaur but released a statement on Twitter announcing that he was pulling out of the match.
The statement read: “Hi all, we have decided with Team Spain and my team, to not play today the first match of the ATP Cup here in Melbourne since I have a stiff low back.
“Hopefully I’ll be better for Thursday. We have a strong team, all the best to [Pablo Carreno-Busta], [Roberto Bautista-Agut] and [Marcel Granollers].”
Bautista-Agut replaced Nadal and fought back from a set down to beat De Minaur 4-6 6-4 6-4.
The move appeared to be a precaution but, with less than a week before the start of the Australian Open, there are concerns about Nadal’s fitness.
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Speaking after the win over De Minaur, Bautista-Agut said: “It was a very tough match. I never beat Alex before today, and I knew it was going to be a difficult match.
“He’s a great player. He’s very solid. He runs well. He’s a great competitor, and well, it took me a while to get the rhythm of the match at the beginning of the first set.
“But I was turning around the rhythm, playing more aggressive, playing harder, and well, I think the match changed, and finally I could close the match playing very good tennis.”
Carreno-Busta beat John Millman 6-2 6-4 and, speaking after his win, said: “Obviously it’s very important to us to win the first match… Rafa couldn’t play, so I am here to try to help my team.
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“Obviously the first match of the season is always difficult, but I think that I played really a good match, feeling very comfortable on court, so [I am] happy for the victory.
“Of course now, [we need to] continue fighting, because they play at home and they’re a really good team.”
Nadal is hoping to be fit for the Open and he is looking to win the tournament for just the second time.
A victory would see him earn a record 21st Grand Slam title and see him go above Roger Federer, who currently sits equal with Nadal on 20 wins.
However, Nadal is not ‘obsessed’ about breaking the record, telling CNN: “I did much more than what I ever dreamed in my tennis career.
“It would be amazing for me to win one more. But I know that will not be the key for my happiness in the future.
“It’s not extra pressure and it’s not an obsession.
“If it happens, fantastic, but if not, I’m more than happy about everything that happened to me.”
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