* Knee injury forces Spaniard to withdraw
* First man unable to defend Wimbledon title since 2002
* Nadal says he is suffering from swelling of knee joints
* Sure he can recover
By Pritha Sarkar
LONDON, June 19 Champion Rafael Nadal pulled out
of Wimbledon on Friday after losing his battle to recover from a
"Unfortunately this year I won't be able to play at
Wimbledon," he told a news conference in Spanish.
The Spaniard, who has been struggling with tendinitis in his
knees since being knocked out of the French Open last month,
tested his fitness in two exhibition matches this week but after
losing both decided not to defend his Wimbledon title just three
days before the start of the major.
He will be the first man not to defend his All England Club
crown since Croatia's Goran Ivanisevic skipped the grasscourt
grand slam in 2002.
"Not to play Wimbledon is one of the toughest decisions in
my career but the decision was made easier because I don't feel
ready to compete at 100 percent for two weeks," said Nadal.
"I don't feel like I'm ready to play in a tournament that is
as important as Wimbledon so I have decided I cannot play this
"I was making an effort to play week after week ... but I
have two oedema (swelling of the knee joint), one in each
knee... and now I'm going to be out.. I don't know what time,
"I tried everything, I tried hard in the last week to get in
the best condition and today was my last test," added the world
number one, who tried to play through the pain in an exhibition
match against Stanislas Wawrinka.
"I didn't feel terrible but I was not at my best."
Just two hours before announcing that the world's most
famous tournament will have to make do without its top seed and
champion, Nadal made a last-ditch effort to see if he could
rescue his Wimbledon hopes.
The fans at the aristocratic Hurlingham country club, just a
few miles down the road from the scene of Nadal's astonishing
five-set defeat of Roger Federer in the final 12 months ago,
marvelled at the dashing Spaniard.
But the assembled media only had eyes for Nadal's knees.
Every bend and stretch by Nadal was scrutinised but the
Mallorcan gave precious little away with his body language
during what was a reasonably strenuous workout against Olympic
doubles champion Wawrinka.
The Mallorcan had grimaced his way through a two-set defeat
against Lleyton Hewitt the previous day yet appeared more
relaxed on Friday as he showed few obvious signs of pain from
It proved to only mask the torment he felt inside.
"I've played with some problems in my knees for a few months
but I always felt I'd try and try. You don't know what your
limit is ... but I have now reached the limit."
Nadal, however, dismissed suggestions the injury was career
"It's not a chronic problem, I can recover for sure.
"I'm going to work very hard to come back as soon as
possible, and when I came back I want to come back 100 percent
mentality and physical (fit) to win, because the problem right
now is when I'm playing I'm thinking more about the knees then
about the game, so that is very difficult to play."
"I am 23 years old and I hope to have a long career and come
back next year... no one is more disappointed than me and the
(Wimbledon crowd) must understand I tried my best."
Nadal's withdrawal means Britain's world number three Andy
Murray is the highest seed left in that half of the draw.
(Editing by Dave Thompson. To query or comment on this story