Rafael Nadal signs to play Indian Wells. When can he meet Novak Djokovic?

Rafael Nadal returns to Indian Wells two decades after debuting in the desert

by Jovica Ilic
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Rafael Nadal signs to play Indian Wells. When can he meet Novak Djokovic?
© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

A 22-time Major winner Rafael Nadal is on the Indian Wells entry list, planning to compete at the season's first Masters 1000 event in March. A three-time champion in the desert will try to challenge the rivals from the top, with a potential duel against Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz or Jannik Sinner coming already in the second round.

Rafa is currently ranked outside the top-600 after playing only three matches in the previous year. The veteran skipped almost the entire 2023 season due to a hip injury and returned to action at the beginning of the current season in Brisbane.

Playing for the first time in 349 days, Rafa ousted Dominic Thiem and Jason Kubler en route to the quarter-final, hoping to chase the title in his comeback event.

Rafael Nadal, Indian Wells 2022© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal will play in Indian Wells in March.

However, the Spaniard experienced another blow against Jordan Thompson, squandering three match points in the second set and losing 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 after almost three and a half hours.

Nadal felt the pain around his troubled hip again, revealing a minor tear in his muscle and skipping the Australian Open. Rafa should return in Doha in a couple of weeks before heading to the USA. Nadal will compete in Indian Wells two decades after debuting in the desert, reaching the third round in 2004 at 17!

Rafa's first Indian Wells title came over Novak Djokovic in 2007, with another coming two years later against Andy Murray. After a couple of deep runs, the Spaniard went all the way again in 2013, securing his third and last Indian Wells crown.

Taylor Fritz & Rafael Nadal, Indian Wells 2022© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafa lost to Novak and Roger in 2016 and 2017 before withdrawing ahead of the clash versus the Swiss in 2019.

Two years ago, Nadal battled for another Indian Wells title, beating a couple of challenging rivals and moving into the final. Dealing with a pectoral muscle injury and struggling to breathe due to a broken rib, Nadal suffered a 6-3, 7-6 defeat to Taylor Fritz, losing his first match of the season.

Fritz was also far from his best, injuring his ankle but deciding to chase a notable crown in front of the home fans. Taylor saved eight out of ten break points, mainly in the second set. The home star delivered four breaks and sealed the deal in straight sets, lifting his first Masters 1000 trophy.

Nadal skipped last year's Indian Wells due to a hip injury and will try to make a winning return in a month, eager to compete after dealing with numerous injuries over the last couple of years.

Rafael Nadal Indian Wells Novak Djokovic
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