INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP)Rafael Nadal pulled out of the upcoming hard-court tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami on Tuesday because of the left hip flexor injury that has sidelined him since the Australian Open.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion tweeted about his withdrawals, which were expected but still raise questions about when he will be able to return to action.
“Took my time off, started rehab, gym and physiotherapy as instructed by the doctors,” Nadal wrote as part of a thread on Twitter that included videos showing him in the gym. “Getting ready to come back … in the best conditions.”
He is a three-time winner and reached the 2022 final at the BNP Paribas Open in California, where the men begin main-draw play on March 8. That will be followed by the Miami Open, another Masters 1000 tournament, where ATP action starts on March 22 and Nadal last competed in 2017. He has never won the title there and is a five-time runner-up, including two losses apiece in finals against rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
After Miami, the men’s tennis circuit shifts to the European red clay, leading up to the French Open in late May.
Nadal has won 14 of his major titles at Roland Garros, including last year while dealing with chronic pain in his left foot. He then made it to the semifinals at Wimbledon but did not play in that round at the All England Club because of an abdominal injury.
And then, in January at Melbourne Park, the 36-year-old from Spain hurt his hip flexor during a second-round loss to Mackenzie McDonald of the United States.
An MRI exam the next day revealed the extent of the injury. Nadal and his manager said at the time that the usual recovery time is about six to eight weeks.
Nadal has lost seven of his past nine matches, dating to a fourth-round defeat at the U.S. Open in September, and the former No. 1-ranked player slid to No. 8 in the ATP standings this week. The longer he is out, the more he will drop – including because he will not be defending the points he earned at Indian Wells a year ago by reaching the final.
The brackets at Indian Wells and Miami might also be missing the current No. 1 – and the player who shares the men’s Grand Slam title record with Nadal: Novak Djokovic, who currently is not allowed to travel to the U.S. as a foreign citizen who has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Djokovic said last week that he has asked American authorities for special permission to be able to enter the country to play at Indian Wells and Miami. The Transportation Security Administration has said the requirement for foreign air travelers to be fully vaccinated against the disease would be in place at least until mid-April.
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