Rafa Nadal's crushing new blow after injury dramas at Australian Open

The Spaniard faces an unthinkable 19-year blow in the wake of his latest injury setback at the Australian Open.

Pictured here, Rafa Nadal speaks about his injury at the Australian Open in 2023.
Rafa Nadal's latest injury leaves his spot in the world's top-10 in serious jeopardy. Pic: Getty

Rafael Nadal faces the very real prospect of dropping out of the world's top 10 for the first time in almost 19 years, as the 22-time grand slam champion battles to recover from his latest injury from the Australian Open last month. The defending champion crashed out in the second round at Melbourne Park after a brutal defeat against American American Mackenzie McDonald that left many fans concerned for the Spaniard's future.

Despite calls from his wife and team to retire from the match after seeing the 36-year-old in obvious discomfort, Nadal refused to give up against McDonald before he was eventually bundled out. Nadal pulled up suddenly in the latter stages of the second set and clutched at his left hip. He opted to finish the match after an off-court medical timeout but his movement was severely hampered.

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Scans later revealed that Nadal had suffered a grade-two injury to his left hip flexor muscle, with the prognosis expected to sideline him for six to eight weeks. He has now pulled out of the Middle East swing of the ATP Tour, with the 22-time grand slam champion missing events in Dubai and Qatar.

The Dubai Tennis Championships take place at the same time as the Mexican Open - an event Nadal won last year. The Spaniard's absence from the tournament in Acapulco would mean he loses 500 rankings points, in a move that would see the Spaniard tumble down the world standings.

Nadal is also battling to be fit for the first Masters event of the year in the United States, where the Indian Wells tournament gets underway on March 6. That date is around the six-week mark that Nadal revealed the nature of his most recent injury, leaving his participation unlikely at best.

The 36-year-old finished runner-up at Indian Wells in 2022 after losing in the final to American Taylor Fritz. If he is unable to defend his 600 points at the year's first Masters event, Nadal faces a further slide down the rankings, with his place in the top-10 in jeopardy.

In a sign of his extraordinary longevity and record-breaking achievements in the sport, Nadal has not been outside of the top 10 in the men's world rankings since April in 2005, with such a scenario representing a further blow to the injury-hit Spaniard. Nadal's challenging start to the year has seen him win just one match out of his first four.

Rafael Nadal refused to retire hurt at Aus Open

At last month's Australian Open, Nadal revealed he intentionally ignored requests from his wife and coaches to retire hurt during his shock loss to McDonald. The 36-year-old suffered a brutal straight-sets loss in what many suggested could have been his final appearance at Melbourne Park.

Nadal's wife Xisca was seen in tears in the crowd as the realisation set in that Nadal wasn't going to be able to fight back. Speaking in his post-match press conference, Nadal said he intentionally stopped communicating with his team because he knew they were pleading with him to quit.

Pictured right to left Rafa Nadal and his wife Xisca at the Australian Open in 2023.
Rafa Nadal has revealed he intentionally ignored pleas from his wife, who was in tears in the crowd. Image: Eurosport/Getty

“Yeah, I consider all the time stopping, but I didn't ask the physiotherapist at the end,” he said after the match. “I have to know myself. And I tried to keep playing without increasing the damage.

"No, that's it. I was not able to hit the backhand at all. I was not able to run for the ball. But I just wanted to finish the match. That's it.”

He added: "I didn't ask them. I am old enough to take my own decisions. So I didn't want to retire, to be defending champion here. No, I didn't want to leave the court with a retirement. Better like this at the end. I lost. Nothing to say. Congratulate the opponent.

“That's the sport at the same time. Just try your best till the end. Doesn't matter the chances that you have. That's the philosophy of the sport. That's the essence of the sport by itself. I tried to follow that during all my tennis career, and I tried of course to not increase the damage, because I didn't know what's going on.”

The top grand slam winners in the Open Era of tennis (since 1968). (Photo by Mahmut Resul Karaca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The top grand slam winners in the Open Era of tennis (since 1968). (Photo by Mahmut Resul Karaca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

with agencies

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