- Associated Press - Thursday, July 19, 2012

MADRID — Defending champion Rafael Nadal withdrew from the London Olympics on Thursday with an undisclosed injury, leaving the tennis competition without one of its leading stars and Spain’s team without its flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony.

Nadal won the French Open for a record seventh time this year but has struggled with left knee problems at times during the season. Shortly after winning his 11th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, he lost to 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol in the second round at Wimbledon.

Nadal has not played since.

The third-ranked Nadal said Thursday he wasn’t in condition to compete at the Olympic tennis tournament — which also will be held at Wimbledon.

“This is one of the saddest moments of my career,” Nadal said in a statement. “I have to think about my companions, I can’t be selfish and I have to think of what’s best for Spanish sport, especially tennis and Spanish players, and give fellow sportsmen with better preparation the chance to compete.

“I tried to hurry my preparations and training to the very last minute, but it was not to be.”

Nadal, 26, has won two Wimbledon titles and claimed gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“You can imagine how difficult it was to take this decision,” he said.

Nadal had been the last of the four singles finalists from 2008 in the London Olympics. Men’s silver medal winner Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, who Nadal beat in straight sets in Beijing, and women’s finalists Elena Dementieva and Dinara Safina of Russia, also will be missing from the London Games.

Nadal did not mention a specific injury in his statement, but he canceled a charity match in Madrid on July 4 because of tendon problems in his left knee.

“I am not in condition to compete in the London Olympics and therefore will not travel as planned with the Spanish delegation to take part in the games,” Nadal said. “[This] is one of the saddest days of my career as one of my biggest ambitions, that of being Spain’s flag bearer in the opening ceremony of the games in London, cannot be.”

Wimbledon to start later in 2015

LONDON — Wimbledon will start a week later in 2015 to give players more time to recover after the French Open.

The All England Club announced the change Thursday, saying in a statement that it will “benefit the sport as a whole by creating a three-week gap between the French Open and Wimbledon.”

In 2015, the tournament will run from June 29 to July 12. The schedule change will give players one extra week to adjust from a slower clay surface to a faster grass court.

“The best interests of tennis will be served by allowing the players more time to recuperate and to adjust from the clay of Roland Garros to the grass at Wimbledon,” All England Club chairman Philip Brook said. “All our research indicates that there is widespread support within the game for extending the gap between the French Open and Wimbledon and, importantly, we think most players will welcome the prospect of a longer grass-court season and spending more time on the softer surface of grass.”

At this year’s Wimbledon, which started on June 25, several players expressed support for an additional week between majors.

“It would give, especially the top players, a little bit more time to get used to the surface,” Novak Djokovic said during the tournament. “Logically speaking, it is the slowest surface that we’re talking about — clay — moving to the fastest one, which takes time. Over the years, we all had to adjust.”

Lleyton Hewitt, the 2002 Wimbledon winner, said “the grass-court season has always been too short.”

The change to the Wimbledon schedule will mean other tournaments may have to change their dates.

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