Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal withdraws from Indian Wells ahead of expected return

Rafael Nadal has pulled out of the BNP Paribas Open a day before he was supposed to play his first official match in two months.

Rafael Nadal

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 03: Rafael Nadal attends The Netflix Slam, a live Netflix Sports event at the MGM Resorts | Michelob Ultra Arena on March 03, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Rafael Nadal pulled out of the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday night, a day before he was supposed to play his first official match in two months.

Nadal, a 22-time Grand Slam champion, posted the news on social media, writing that he was announcing the withdrawal “with great sadness.”

“It is not an easy decision, it’s a tough one as a matter of fact, but I can’t lie to myself and lie to the thousands of fans,” Nadal said in a statement released by the tournament.

The 37-year-old from Spain missed nearly all of last season because of a hip injury that required surgery, then briefly returned to action for three matches in early January before tearing a muscle near the hip. That forced him to bypass the Australian Open — and he has not been on tour since.

Nadal had come to the California desert well ahead of the hard-court tournament to prepare for his return to action in what he has said could be his final year as a professional. He left to head to Las Vegas, where he played an exhibition match against Carlos Alcaraz on Sunday, before going back to Indian Wells.

He was scheduled to face 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic in the first round Thursday night — Sumit Nagal, who lost in qualifying, took the empty spot in the bracket — but now the world will wait to find out when it next will get a chance to watch Nadal compete.

“I have been working hard and practicing and you all know I took a test this weekend,” Nadal said, “but I don’t find myself ready to play at the highest level at such an important event.”

He has accomplished just about everything there is to accomplish in tennis, including all of the major championships, the Olympic gold medals in singles and doubles, 92 tour-level singles titles in all, more than 1,000 match wins and more than $130 million in prize money, to speak nothing of endorsements.

But almost since the moment he hurt his hip flexor during a second-round loss at the 2023 Australian Open, Nadal has indicated he is not ready to walk away from the sport he dominated for stretches alongside rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

He has been particularly interested in returning to his beloved French Open, which he has won a record 14 times, and making one last appearance at a Summer Games — this year's edition is in Paris, with tennis hosted by Roland Garros.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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