Rafa Nadal suffers brutal six-year first as video hints at next move

The Spaniard hasn't played a tournament since his elimination at the Australian Open.

Rafa Nadal (pictured right) during training and (pictured left) Nadal reacting during the Australian Open.
Rafa Nadal (pictured right) has been spotted training on clay at his academy for the first time since the Australian Open. (Images: Getty Images/Twitter)

Rafa Nadal has been spotted training on clay at his academy for the first time since the Australian Open, which has sparked concern the Spaniard will miss Indian Wells and put an end to his historic Top 10 steak. Nadal recently announced his withdrawal from a Las Vegas exhibition match after suffering a hip injury during his Australian Open campaign.

He also withdrew from the Dubai Tennis Championship having failed to come back sooner than hoped from his brutal exit at Melbourne Park. Nadal was in visible pain as he limped to a defeat to American Mackenzie McDonald in the second round of the Australian Open in January.

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Nadal announced he would be taking 6-8 weeks off after the grand slam to recover from a hip injury. The 36-year-old was visibly downtrodden after his elimination and injury after coming back from an abdomen injury that hampered the second half of his 2022 season.

Tennis fans have been waiting for news surrounding Nadal's return with the Spaniard and Djokovic both sitting on 22 grand slam titles heading into Roland Garros. And the Spaniard was finally spotted taking to the court at the Rafa Nadal Academy in his hometown of Mallorca. However, Nadal was training on clay in a potential sign of where his mindset is ahead of the next grand slam.

This has sparked speculation that Nadal could skip Indian Wells starting in March to focus on his clay court campaign. Nadal admitted earlier this year that he would be more selective of the tournaments he plays.

The Spaniard admitted that holding the World No.1 ranking was unrealistic in the twilight of his career. And his preparation amid his build-up for a return suggests Nadal will look ahead to Roland Garros, which represents his most likely tournament to win another grand slam title.

Rafa Nadal's ranking record at risk at Indian Wells

While avoiding hard courts could be the smarter, amid his injury woes, skipping the ATP 1000 event will mark an 18-year-first for Nadal. The 22-time grand slam champ hasn't been outside of the Top 10 rankings since entering after his win at the Barcelona Open when he was 18 years old in 2005.

However, the rankings this week confirmed that he had dropped to World No.8. The Spaniard has not been ranked this low since 2017, when he made the Australian Open final.

In 2020, Nadal overtook tennis great Jimmy Connors previous record of 789 weeks in the Top 10. Nadal has been in the Top 10 for 910 consecutive weeks.

Rafael Nadal (pictured) leaves Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open.
Rafael Nadal (pictured) has only just returned to training after injuring himself at the Australian Open. (Photo by Hu Jingchen/Xinhua via Getty Images)

But, missing Indian Wells, Nadal will drop 600 points having made the final last year. While he hasn't withdrawn yet from the event, Nadal's ranking could take a hit by the time the French Open comes around. Nadal has points to defend at both the Rome Open and Madrid Open, 260 points combined, before 2,000 points at the French Open.

Another superstar who faces a race to be fit for Indian Wells is fellow Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz. The 19-year-old re-injured his leg in his Rio Open loss to Cameron Norrie in the final.

It remains unclear whether Alcaraz will play either the Mexican Open or Indian Wells after admitting he felt pain during the final in the same leg that kept him out of the Australian Open.

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