'Rafael Nadal's main issue has been...', says expert

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'Rafael Nadal's main issue has been...', says expert

Rafael Nadal, a 22-time Major winner, dropped out of the top-5 after more than a year. The Spaniard was unable to defend his Australian Open title and 2,000 ATP points, leaving the top-5 for the first time since January last year and hoping to return in April or May.

Rafa has only played 13 matches after last Wimbledon, battling an abdominal injury and missing out on a chance to become world number 1 at the US Open. The Spaniard led the ATP race after winning the Australian Open and Roland Garros in 2022, but was unable to maintain that pace after several setbacks.

The most recent came in the second round of the Australian Open a few weeks ago, when he injured his left hip against Mackenzie McDonald in the second round. Nadal suffered a 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 defeat, allowing four rivals to overtake him on the ATP ranking list.

Rafa suffered a grade 2 iliopsoas injury and will miss between six and eight weeks. Thus, the Spaniard could leave the top-10 for the first time since April 2005 if he does not recover until Indian Wells. Rafa arrived in Melbourne in no shape, battling injury for months and suffering his eighth defeat in their previous 13 meetings.

Nadal beat Jack Draper in the first round before falling to McDonald in straight sets, struggling from the start and feeling the pain from the end of the second set. McDonald played well and stayed focused against an injured opponent to advance to the third round.

The American achieved five breaks in eight opportunities and only lost serve twice. The lower-ranked player got off to a flying start, smashing the defending champion in games one and five to open for a 4-1 run in less than 20 minutes.

Nadal cut the deficit with a break in the sixth game, and McDonald fended off a break point at 5-4 to bring the set home and build momentum.

Rafael Nadal left the top-5

Tumaini Carayol believes men's tennis is enduring a "strange period" at the moment given how Djokovic and Rafael Nadal continue to dominate the field.

"It's definitely a weird, strange period in men's tennis at the moment. Djokovic is still just, you know, just dominating as he did," Carayol said. "Nadal's main issue has been injuries not the quality of the field. You know, catching up with them is the fact that he injured his abdominal muscle before the semis of Wimbledon and just hasn't recovered. More things keep on piling up on top of that," he added.

Rafael Nadal