| MALLORCA, Spain, July 21
MALLORCA, Spain, July 21 Rafa Nadal fears the
chance to carry Spain's flag at an Olympics opening ceremony may
not come around again after being forced to withdraw from the
London 2012 tennis event with a knee injury.
The 11-times grand slam champion was to be his country's
flagbearer at next Friday's opening ceremony but pulled out on
Thursday after failing to recover from the knee problems that
have dogged him.
The Olympic singles champion now faces a battle to be fit
for the forthcoming U.S. hardcourt season culminating at the
U.S. Open at Flushing Meadow.
Speaking to Reuters Television in a gym on his home island
of Mallorca on Saturday, the 26-year-old said it had been a hard
decision to withdraw.
"I was like scared to take the decision no? It is something
that happens. You never know if it happens only one time in life
bringing the flag of my country to the Olympics with all the
sports family of Spain there," he said.
"All I can say is that I did as much as I could to be there
and to be ready but it wasn't the right time.
"My emotion and my illusion (dream) to compete in the
Olympics was more than ever.
"The only thing that I can do is to work hard and try to do
the things that will create another opportunity in Rio 2016,"
added the former world number one.
"When I had to take the decision was the toughest moment.
But it was something that I was thinking was going to happen for
the last six, seven days because the knee was not improving."
Nadal suffers with tendinitis in his knees -- a condition
that forced him to withdraw from Wimbledon in 2009, a year after
winning the tournament.
Only in March this year, he was forced to concede his Miami
Masters semi-final against Andy Murray.
Despite winning a seventh French Open title, Nadal has
dropped to three in the world rankings behind Roger Federer and
Novak Djokovic and the state of his knees is sure to become a
topic of debate as the American swing begins.
"The only thing I can do is to work hard every day as much
as I can to try to recover my knee as quick as possible in the
tennis calendar," said Nadal, who suffered a shock second-round
defeat to Czech Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon last month.
"The tournaments never stop so I will try to be ready for
the American season but you never know you have to work hard
everyday and see, go day by day and see how it improves."
"I will compete when my knee says I am ready to compete," he
added. "I don't want to go on court with bad feeling because
then it is terrible. You start, you have to stop, you suffer
every day. I will go back to court when my knee is ready."
Spanish basketball player Pau Gasol has been chosen to
replace Nadal as the country's flag bearer.
(Writing by Martyn Herman in London; Editing by Alison Wildey)