MADRID - Rafael Nadal announced Tuesday that doctors have ordered him to pull out of what was to have been his first comeback tournament after a seven-month hiatus nursing a knee injury.
The 26-year-old Spaniard said on his Facebook page that a fever caused by a stomach infection has forced him to pull out of an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi on Dec. 27.
"I am very disappointed that I will not be able to compete this year in Abu Dhabi," he said. "Everything had been prepared."
Nadal added that he had been very keen to return to the Middle East competition but doctors had told him his body needs rest "to fight this stomach virus."
Nadal acknowledged his withdrawal would be a disappointment to fans and the tournament, which is due to feature top-ranked Novak Djokovic and No. 3-ranked Andy Murray of Britain, but emphasized that it was not prompted by his knee injury.
"My rehab has gone well, my knee feels good and I was looking forward to competing," he said.
Nadal is now expected to make his return at the Qatar Open, which begins on Dec. 31.
The knee injury prevented Nadal from defending his Olympic singles gold at the Olympics in London, where he was supposed to be Spain's flag bearer at the opening ceremony. He also had to pull out of the U.S. Open and Spain's Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic, which his teammates lost without him.
The 11-time Grand Slam winner and former top-ranked player said his knee has improved over the last two months after making frustratingly little progress during the summer.
The tournament in Abu Dhabi would have been Nadal's first competitive action since being sidelined with tendinitis in his left knee following a second-round loss to then 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon in June.