BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Rafael Nadal's French Open preparations are being guided by his delicate knees.
Nadal is skipping this week's Barcelona Open, where he is a five-time champion, after injuries to both knees last year hampered his goal of a fifth straight title at Roland Garros and forced him out of Wimbledon.
The Spaniard was sidelined for two months in 2009 after an early French Open exit to Robin Soderling. Tendinitis in his knees left him unable to defend his Wimbledon title and an abdominal injury also marred what had been an impressive start to the season.
"I'm in perfect shape," Nadal said Tuesday. "I feel very good but I don't want a repeat of what happened last year. For my tennis to be at the right level, I have to be physically well and that's my principal objective."
Nadal, who missed a month after the Australian Open because of a knee problem, said he will try to win his fifth Rome Masters title next week. The French Open runs May 23-June 6.
The third-ranked Nadal is 21-4 this season with one title. Last year, he was 32-1 at this point and had won three events, including the Australian Open.
"I'm being as cautious as possible so that I can play the maximum amount possible," Nadal said. "It wasn't planned. Tennis isn't like football, you never know how many games you're going to have to play."
Nadal won the Monte Carlo Masters last week for the sixth straight year. He said only an early exit at that event would have allowed him to play at Barcelona.
"It's tough not to play here. It's my club, it's Barcelona. I'm at home and I've already won five times here," Nadal said. "But after last year's disagreeable experience, I think to play three weeks in a row is not the smartest thing for me."
Nadal, who has never hidden his displeasure with the ATP's crowded calendar, said Barcelona will be on his schedule next season as there is a week off before Rome.
Nadal could drop next month's Madrid Masters, a high-altitude event that leads into the French Open. Last year, Nadal beat Novak Djokovic in an exhausting semifinal match before losing to Roger Federer in the final.