ACAPULCO, MEXICO (AFP) - World No. 2 Rafael Nadal pulled out of the Mexican Open on Tuesday (Feb 27), cutting short his comeback from a hip injury when the problem flared up again.
"My goal and hope was to play in this tournament. Unfortunately, in my last training session yesterday, I felt a sharp pain in my leg again," the 31-year-old Spanish star said hours before what was to have been his opening match of the ATP Tour event in Acapulco.
Nadal, favoured to win the tournament, had been due to face fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.
"I took all the appropriate steps to arrive at the tournament in form. I went to Cozumel first, to adapt (to the climate)," he told reporters. "But yesterday, in my last training session before the tournament, during one movement I felt a sharp pain again in the same area where I had the problem in Australia."
Nadal limped out of the quarter-finals at the Australian Open on Jan 23. He has since lost his No. 1 ranking to Roger Federer.
Nadal said doctors in Mexico had warned him not to play for fear of aggravating the injury.
"I still don't know what it is, because we don't know. It seems it's not as bad as what I had at the Australian Open," he said. "Now, my main goal is to find out the extent of the injury."
This marks the fifth tournament in a row that he has pulled out of or retired from - the Australian Open, Brisbane, London, Paris and Acapulco.
Earlier in the week, the 16-time Grand Slam winner proclaimed himself fully fit and said he was looking forward to competing again.
"I took a couple of weeks of rest and worked hard on rehabilitation," he told reporters prior to pulling out. "Last week, I started practising hard again. I feel ready."
Nadal is expected to remain at least one more day in Acapulco to have more tests done.
"Maybe it is a minor situation, but the reality is that there is liquid and until it goes down a bit and the relevant tests are done, it will not be possible to diagnose," he said.
While a victory this week would not have been good enough to overhaul Federer, it would leave the Spaniard primed to replace the Swiss star at Indian Wells or Miami next month.
The 2008 Olympic gold-medal winner is known as the "King of Clay" and is considered the greatest clay-court player in the history of the sport.
But his success is limited largely to the gritty surface. Nadal has won 10 French Open titles, three US Opens, two Wimbledons and one Australian Open.