Tennis: Melbourne finalist Nadal skips Davis Cup first round after gruelling fortnight

MADRID (AFP) - Rafael Nadal on Monday pulled out of Spain's Davis Cup clash with Croatia this weekend, as he recovers from his Australian Open exertions.

Nadal, beaten in five sets by Roger Federer in Sunday's Melbourne final, will be replaced in the World Group first-round tie by Feliciano Lopez.

The Spanish tennis federation said its medical staff preferred that Nadal sat out the trip to Osijek, given "the little recovery time" available to the world No. 6.

The federation noted that Nadal "had played in a lot of matches after four months out of action" in January, which at 30 years of age was harder to recover from than in the past.

Five-time Davis Cup champions Spain are making their return to the World Group after a two-year absence.

Lopez, the world No. 33, joins Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Carreno Busta and Marc Lopez against Croatia, who lost to Argentina in last year's final.

Nadal reached his 21st Grand Slam final in Melbourne after a run of beating Alexander Zverev, Gael Monfils, Milos Raonic and then Grigor Dimitrov in a near five-hour semi-final.

On Sunday, the 14-time Slam winner succumbed 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to Federer in a classic conclusion to the tournament.