Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Kevin Anderson during the Mubadala World Tennis Championship 2018 first Semi-final match in Abu Dhabi, on December 28, 2018. Image Credit: AFP

Brisbane: Rafael Nadal’s Australian Open preparations were thrown into chaos as he pulled out of this week’s Brisbane International due to a strain in his left thigh muscle.

The Spaniard said he did not want to risk an injury ahead of this first Grand Slam of the year, but will be desperately short of tournament action when the action gets under way in Melbourne on January 14.

He lost a three-set match against South Africa’s Kevin Anderson at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi last week and then pulled out of the third-place play-off match.

The world No. 2 endured an injury-plagued 2018 season that saw him contest only nine tournaments due to hip, knee, abdomen and ankle injuries.

The 32-year-old retired injured against Juan Martin del Potro in their US Open semi-final last September and underwent ankle surgery two months later.

“I did an MRI and it shows a small strain on my left thigh,” Nadal, who was due to face Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round on Thursday, said. “I tried to play, I wanted to play. It’s a small thing that can become much bigger. It’s a risk to damage my body for one month if I play here.”

Meanwhile, another former world No. 1 attempting to come back from injury, Andy Murray, was outplayed by Russia’s Daniil Medvedev as he lost 7-5, 6-2 in Brisbane.