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Rafael Nadal tests positive for COVID-19, may not play at Australian Open

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  • Rafael Nadal
    Rafael Nadal
    Spanish tennis player

Spanish tennis legend Rafael Nadal said Monday that he's tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to Spain from the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition event in Abu Dhabi.

"I wanted to announce that on my return home after playing the Abu Dhabi tournament, I have tested positive for COVID in the PCR test that has been performed on me when I arrived in Spain," Nadal, 35, said on Twitter via ESPN.

Nadal, who has previously said that he's vaccinated, tested negative while he was in Kuwait and Abu Dhabi for the tournament. He didn't specifically say he was experiencing symptoms, but did say he hopes to get better as the days progress. 

"I am having some unpleasant moments but I hope that I will improve little by little. I am now homebound and have reported the result to those who have been in contact with me," he wrote.

Nadal's matches at the exhibition, two close losses to Andy Murray and Denis Shapovolov, were his first since August. Following an epic French Open semifinal match against Novak Djokovic, Nadal missed much of the rest of the season with back and foot injuries. 

Tennis - Mubadala World Tennis Championship - International Tennis Centre, Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - December 17, 2021 Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his semi final match against Britain's Andy Murray REUTERS/Christopher Pike
Rafael Nadal has tested positive for COVID-19 and may not be able to compete at the Australian Open in January. (REUTERS/Christopher Pike)

Nadal may be out of Australian Open

Nadal admitted on Twitter that his positive test could complicate his ability to compete at the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 17. 

"As a result of the situation I have to have total flexibility with my calendar and I will analyze my options depending on my evolution. I will keep you informed of any decisions about my future tournaments," Nadal wrote on Twitter.

The issue with the Aussie Open wouldn't be his positive test, at least not directly. He would likely be clear of the virus in time to travel to Australia and meet all their requirements for entry. But the timing couldn't be worse. Nadal was in Abu Dhabi to ramp up his hardcourt training ahead of the Australian Open, which is especially important since he hasn't played much competitive tennis since May. 

Nadal knows that with his age (35) and his recent injuries, he needs to be thoughtful and strategic about when he chooses to compete, especially since he likely wants to be in peak condition for clay court season, his specialty. 

“I cannot guarantee Australia 100 percent because I need to go home and see how the body responds after these days,” Nadal told reporters via USA Today. “I have time to make a decision. At this point in my career, I need to go day by day, study each movement well."

It's possible that none of the recent greats in men's or women's tennis will participate in the Australian Open. Serena Williams and Roger Federer have both already said that they will not be competing due to ongoing injury issues. Novak Djokovic, the defending men's singles champion, may not be able to participate due to the Australian Open's vaccine requirements. 

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