MADRID — Beijing gold medalist Rafael Nadal will be forced to miss the London Olympics due to his chronic knee problems.
The world No. 3 has been trying to rehab his knees since losing June 28 in the Wimbledon second round, resting and taking treatment.
“Today is one of the saddest days of my career,” Nadal said Thursday.
Nadal uncle and coach Toni Nadal told Spain’s Radio Marca that his nephew’s decision marked “the disappointment of his life.”
“The recovery has not gone well, we went to train, and Rafa took the decision himself despite his dream of playing in another Games,” the elder Nadal said. “We’ve missed an opportunity to participate in the Games and compete for medals.”
The pullout leaves Spanish Olympic officials searching for a replacement for their top player, who was to have competed in doubles with Marcel Granollers. The decision is due this week with the Games tennis tournament starting a week from Saturday.
David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco make up the remainder of the singles players, while Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez are one of the two original Spanish doubles teams.
“Carrying the flag for Spain at the opening ceremony was set to be one of the biggest honors, one of the most special moments for me,” Nadal said. “For this reason I hope you can understand how difficult it has been for me to take this decision.”
The 11-time Grand Slam champion was to have defended his gold medal from Beijing 2008 at the London event, whose tennis tournament starts on July 28.
His knee tendinitis forced him to cancel an exhibition with Novak Djokovic this month in Madrid.
“I’m not in the right physical condition to compete at the London Olympics, and for this reason I will not travel as arranged with the Spanish delegation,” Nadal said.
“I have to think about my teammates. I cannot be an egotist and think about myself here. I have to think about Spanish sport, and that one of my teammates who is better prepared than me can take my place and compete to the best of his ability.”
After working for weeks in hopes that he would be ready, Nadal concluded: “I’ve waited until the final moment of my preparation and my training, but I cannot do it.”
Nadal has not played since losing in the Wimbledon second round to Czech Lukas Rosol.