Another tournament - another blow for Rafael Nadal. The retirement gets closer

Rafael Nadal will not compete in Indian Wells

by Jovica Ilic
Another tournament - another blow for Rafael Nadal. The retirement gets closer
© David Becker / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

22-time Major winner Rafael Nadal is not ready to compete in Indian Wells, withdrawing from the first Masters 1000 event of the season! Rafa arrived in the desert early to practice. He endured a two-hour battle against Carlos Alcaraz in Las Vegas the other night, but he is not satisfied with his current level, missing another event and staying on three matches in 2024.

Nadal will travel home and practice ahead of Monte Carlo, although things are not looking good for a grand champion, as he struggles to recover and play injury-free in what might be his last season on the Tour. Troubled with a hip injury, Rafa has played only seven matches since the beginning of 2023, experiencing the worst break of his career despite an incredible start in 2022.

Rafael Nadal, Las Vegas 2024© David Becker / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Nadal conquered the Australian Open and Roland Garros in the first part of the season, overcoming injuries and placing himself above Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Rafa's problems started at Wimbledon, where he injured his abdominal muscle and withdrew ahead of the semi-final. The Spaniard played only a couple of matches by the end of the season, struggling to find form and missing an opportunity to become world no.

1 at 36. Nadal wished for a better start in 2023, but that did not happen! Playing with no confidence, the veteran lost two United Cup matches after winning the opener, traveling to Melbourne with dark clouds above his head.

Seeking the title defense, Rafa defeated Jack Draper in the first round and faced Mackenzie McDonald in the second. Nadal injured his left hip in the closing stages of the second set, playing until the end but unveiling severe harm that would cause the most extended break of his career!

Rafa underwent surgery in June and missed the rest of the season, enjoying the summer with his family and friends before returning to the practice court.

Rafael Nadal, The Netflix Slam 2024© Candice Ward / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal withdrew from Indian Wells.

Nadal felt good on the court and in the gym, setting his return for the first week of 2024.

Rafa entered Brisbane and played his first match in 349 days against his old rival, Dominic Thiem. The Spaniard looked good, breaking the Austrian's resistance in the closing stages of the opener and dominating set number two for his first win in almost a year.

Jason Kubler stood no chance against Rafa, who set the quarter-final duel with Jordan Thompson. The first real test brought a struggle that Nadal's body failed to endure despite a massive effort. Rafa experienced a 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 loss in three hours and 25 minutes after blowing three match points in the second set.

Jordan survived and looked better in the decider, unlike Rafa.

Rafael Nadal, The Netflix Slam 2024© Candice Ward / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

The Spaniard asked for a medical timeout, feeling the pain around his troubled hip and asking for a medical timeout.

Nadal underwent an MRI in Melbourne, which revealed a micro tear in his muscle, forcing him to withdraw from the Australian Open. Rafa took a couple of weeks off and hit the practice court in Mallorca. A 22-time Major winner felt discomfort around his hip and withdrew from Doha, not risking more serious issues.

The Spaniard traveled to Indian Wells early, hoping for a good run in the desert ahead of his beloved clay swing. Nadal practiced and traveled to Las Vegas, competing against Carlos Alcaraz at The Netflix Slam and losing 3-6, 6-4, 14-12 after an entertaining battle.

Rafa did not serve or move as he would wish, and he did not like his chances in Indian Wells, skipping another tournament and focusing on clay. Nadal will throw everything at Roland Garros in his potentially last season, targeting the 15th title in Paris.

However, things are becoming more difficult for the veteran, who struggles to find a way to compete injury-free at this stage of his career. Rafa had been able to deliver magic on clay many times, but it does not look like it would be the case this spring, staying away from the court for too long and missing matches.

The Spaniard will try to play a couple of matches in Monte Carlo and Barcelona ahead of Madrid and Rome, still dreaming about a good result at Roland Garros 19 years after debuting in Paris.

Carlos Alcaraz & Rafael Nadal, The Netflix Slam 2024© Candice Ward / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

"It is with great sadness that I have to withdraw from Indian Wells.

Everyone knows how much I love this place and how much I love to play here. That's also one of the reasons why I came very early to the desert to practice and try to get ready. I have been working hard and practicing. I took a test this weekend, but I'm not ready to play at the highest level at such an important event. It is not an easy decision, but I can not lie to myself and thousands of fans. I will miss you all," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Indian Wells