at Madrid, Nadal lost in the final to the world number two Roger Federer of Switzerland. Then in even more of a surprise, Nadal
was ousted in the fourth round of the French Open, a tournament which the Spaniard had won the last four years.
Last year, Nadal won the French Open, Wimbledon and took a singles gold medal at the Summer Olympics. In January, Nadal scored his sixth career grand slam title at the Australian Open.
Nadal threatened to run away with his rivalry with Federer and deny the Swiss the title of the greatest ever male tennis player. However after taking his first French Open title earlier this month, Federer is now set for a possible sixth Wimbledon title for a men's record of 15 total grand slam wins.
It's not uncommon for injury to take a toll on top tennis players. Grand slam champions such as Jennifer Capriati and Monica Seles of the USA as well as crowd favorites Anna Kournikova of Russia and Jan-Michael Gambill of the USA all remain absent from the professional tennis tours because of injuries.
The seven time Wimbledon champion Steffi Graf of Germany battled several injuries throughout her career before retiring in 1999 in part due to a back injury.
Nadal is the first reigning men's Wimbledon champion to withdraw from the following year's tournament since Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia in 2002. Ivanisevic struggled with a shoulder injury after his London victory and never won another ATP Tour singles title.
Last year in May, the WTA Tour's top ranked player, Justine Henin of Belgium announced her immediate retirement from the sport after suffering fatigue and a knee injury that spring.
And to add insult to injury, Federer could replace Nadal atop the ATP Tour rankings in two weeks after a strong showing at Wimbledon, which begins Monday.
“When I start a tournament like Wimbledon, it is to try to win,” the defending champion Nadal said, “and my feeling right now is I'm not ready to play to win.”
“I think I reached the limit right now. I need to reset to come back stronger.”
The 23 year old Nadal first topped the ATP Tour rankings in August of last year. And after winning the Australian Open in January, many thought the left-hander would sweep the remaining three grand slams.