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Nadal's struggle leaves Wimbledon in doubt

LONDON - Rafael Nadal looked hampered by his injured kneesduring a 6-4, 6-3 loss to Lleyton Hewitt in an exhibition Thursday.He will decide Friday if he can defend his Wimbledon title.

Nadal played without tape on his knees but frequently appeared astep slow in the grass-court match at Hurlingham Club. This wasNadal s first match since his loss to Robin Soderling in the fourthround of the French Open. He pulled out of last week s grass-courttournament at Queen s Club to rest his knees.

Nadal looked increasingly frustrated against the hard-servingHewitt, repeatedly failing to get to balls he normally reaches andstruggling with unforced backhand errors. He frequently muttered tohimself in Spanish after missed shots and often had to rely on histop-spin forehand to escape trouble.

He did not speak to reporters, but uncle and coach Toni Nadalsaid it was still uncertain whether he can play at Wimbledon, whichstarts Monday.

Nadal plays another match Friday against Stanislas Wawrinka.Toni Nadal said the top-ranked player will decide after that. Whenpressed about Wimbledon, the coach did not sound optimistic.

If it s me, I m (flying) to Mallorca, he said, referring tothe island where Nadal grew up.

In the other singles match Thursday at the small private club bythe River Thames, Tomas Berdych beat Marat Safin 7-6 (7), 6-4.

Hewitt challenged Nadal from the start, forcing the Spaniard tosave two break points in the first game before holding serve. Theformer top-ranked Australian then managed to break at love for a3-2 lead after three unforced errors from Nadal. Hewitt held hisnext service game at love behind a barrage of aces.

Nadal had his first break point in the first game of the secondset, but Hewitt saved it with a service winner. Nadal set upanother break point at 2-2 with a good forehand volley, but Hewittmade a forehand winner down the line before holding.

Hewitt then broke again for a 4-3 lead after Nadal sent aforehand long, and the Australian converted his second match pointafter Nadal sent a lunging backhand long.


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