Rafa Nadal pulls out of Doha and defends collaboration with Saudi Arabia. GETTY IMAGES

Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal has pulled out of the Doha tournament after posting a message on social media saying he was not ready for the competition and needed to recover well for the Indian Wells tournament and the rest of the season.

The Mallorcan, who turns 38 in June, was forced to pull out of the ATP Doha tournament, where he had hoped to return following his injury at the Brisbane Open in Australia. 

After a year plagued by injuries that have kept him away from the top spots, as has been the case throughout his long and successful career, the native of Manacor in the Balearic Islands has not been able to recover and will remain away from the professional circuit. 

"I would have loved to play in Doha, where the tournament team and the incredible Qatari fans have always given me great support. Unfortunately, I am not ready to play and will not be able to go to Doha," said the 22-time Grand Slam winner. 

"I really wanted to be there and play again after my unforgettable victory in 2014. I will focus on recovering for the Las Vegas exhibition and the incredible Indian Wells tournament," he wrote on social media.

Doha organisers announced last month that Nadal had signed up for the tournament, which will be held in the Qatari capital from 19-24 February. Nadal, who reigned as world number one for 209 weeks (the sixth longest in history), made a brief return to competition at the beginning of January in Brisbane, Australia, in early January after almost a year out with injury.

After losing in the third round in Brisbane, he was ruled out of the Australian Open in Melbourne on 7 January due to a torn muscle. In an interview with El Objetivo de La Sexta (Spanish TV), Nadal insisted that "at this point, every blow, every injury is a setback, not only in tennis and physically, but also mentally", and defended his cautious approach to his recovery. 

"The main goal is to try to get to the clay season as healthy as possible, to at least give me the opportunity to enjoy the clay season," Nadal said in the interview. The main target is therefore Roland Garros, the big event of the clay season, where Nadal has built much of his legend with 14 titles in Paris.

Saudi Arabia, with "great potential":

The player who has won five of the six Davis Cups that Spain has in its trophy cabinet did not hesitate in the same television interview to answer questions about his recent appointment as ambassador of the Saudi Tennis Federation, denying that it was a means of whitewashing the country's image.

"I don't think Arabia needs me to whitewash any image, it's a country that has opened up to the world and has great potential. Some things need to be improved today, no doubt, it is a country that is very backward in many ways, so it has opened up recently," added the player who holds the record for most weeks in the top ten (more than 900 weeks).

Rafa Nadal, Lord and Master of Paris after winning Roland Garros 14 times. GETTY IMAGES
Rafa Nadal, Lord and Master of Paris after winning Roland Garros 14 times. GETTY IMAGES

"I believe that I will have the freedom to work with the values that I believe I have to work with, and that's right, if that doesn't happen afterwards, in the next interview, in some time, I will say that I made a mistake," said the King of Clay and undoubtedly one of the greatest tennis players in history.