‘Sad’ Rafael Nadal Abandons Latest Comeback With Indian Wells Withdrawal

Rafael Nadal canceled his planned ATP Tour return at the Indian Wells Masters on Wednesday, saying he was not prepared for the demands of tournament tennis on the eve of his first match in California.

The Spanish icon’s surprise decision came four days after he lost a Las Vegas exhibition to compatriot and world number two Carlos Alcaraz.

Nadal missed practically the entire 2023 season due to abdominal and other problems, and he has only participated in the Brisbane International this season, where he suffered a flare-up of his hip.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion was scheduled to debut at Indian Wells on Thursday against Milos Raonic, a former Wimbledon finalist from Canada.

“It is with great sadness that I have to withdraw from this amazing tournament at Indian Wells,” Nadal said in a statement.

“I have been working hard … but I don’t find myself ready to play at the highest level at such an important event.

“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.

“I will miss you all and I am sure the tournament will be a great success.”

Indian Wells tournament director Tommy Haas expressed disappointment at Nadal’s withdrawal.

“We wish him continued healing and hope he can be back in action again soon,” Haas said. “He is one of the all-time fan favorites here, and we hope to see him back in Indian Wells again in the future.”

On Sunday, Nadal had given an encouraging performance in his Las Vegas clash with Alcaraz.

After suffering a muscle tear in Brisbane in January, Nadal withdrew from the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the season.

Dogged by injuries

He then canceled intentions to play at the Qatar Open in February, claiming he was “not ready to compete.”

Injuries have been a recurring theme throughout Nadal’s record-breaking career, owing to his all-action, brutal-hitting style, which has resulted in major knee, wrist, and foot issues.

Nadal dominated the French Open throughout his career, winning 14 of his majors, the first coming only days after his 19th birthday in 2005 and the last in 2022, making him the event’s oldest victor.

He has won the US Open four times, Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010, and the Australian Open twice, with his first title at Melbourne Park in 2009 and his second in 2022.

Wednesday’s withdrawal at Indian Wells will fuel rumors regarding the Spaniard’s retirement date.

In January, however, Nadal rejected to affirm that 2024 would be his final season, reversing prior indications that he could retire this year.

“The problem about saying that’s going to be my last season is I can’t predict what’s going on 100 percent in the future,” he said in Brisbane in January.

“You never know what’s going on, you know? I can’t predict how I’m going to be in the next six months. I can’t predict if my body will allow me to enjoy tennis as much as I enjoyed the past 20 years.”

He admitted though that he had contemplated retirement during his lengthy injury absence from the sport last year.

“Of course I was asking myself that (about retirement), but at some point I decided to keep going. I had the determination to keep going,” Nadal said.

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