Olympic champion Rafael Nadal's withdrawal from the London Games because of injury deprived the tournament of one of its biggest attractions and left Spain reeling.
The gold medal winner in Beijing four years ago has failed to recover from a knee problem and also misses out on the honour of carrying his nation's flag at the opening ceremony.
The Spanish tennis federation says Feliciano Lopez will be Nadal's replacement in the singles draw, while the country's Olympic committee will decide on Friday on a replacement flag bearer for the July 27 parade.
"I'm not in a condition to be able to compete," Nadal said in a statement.
"It's one of the saddest moments of my career."
Nadal won a record seventh French Open title in June but crashed out in the second round at Wimbledon in a massive upset against lowly-ranked Czech Lukas Rosol.
Earlier this month, he pulled out of a charity match against Novak Djokovic in Madrid, saying he was suffering from tendonitis and needed to rest.
Nadal had hoped to return to Wimbledon this month to defend his Olympic title and his withdrawal echoes his plight of 2009 when a similar knee problem meant he had to withdraw from the grass court major, a year after winning it for the first time in an epic final against Roger Federer.
"I have to think of my colleagues, I cannot be selfish and I have to think of the well-being of Spanish sport, especially Spanish tennis, and let a colleague play who has had a better preparation and is in a state to compete," the world number three said.
"I pushed until the last moment in my preparations, in training, but it wasn't to be.
"Today is one of the saddest days of my career as it was one of my biggest dreams, and perhaps the most anticipated moment to be the flag bearer at the opening ceremony for the Games in London.
"You can imagine how difficult it has been to take this decision."
The debate as to who would replace Nadal as flag bearer had already started in the Spanish media.
Sailing duo Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez, who have won a gold and a silver, were in the running along with basketball silver medallist Pau Gasol.
The tennis competition at the All England Club begins on July 28 with Serbia's Djokovic the top seed.
ReutersTags: olympics-summer, sport, tennis, spain First posted July 20, 2012 07:22:43