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Rafael Nadal withdraws from Indian Wells: 'I can’t lie to myself and lie to the thousands of fans'

Since the 2022 US Open, Nadal has only played 12 official matches

FILE - Rafael Nadal of Spain waves to the crowd in his match against Dominic Thiem of Austria during the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. Rafael Nadal pulled out of the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday night, March 6, 2024, a day before he was supposed to play his first official match in two months. Nadal, a 22-time Grand Slam champion, posted the news on social media, writing that he was announcing the withdrawal “with great sadness.” (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard, File)
Rafael Nadal won't play at the BNP Paribas Open in California. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Rafael Nadal is withdrawing from the BNP Paribas Open, he announced via social media Wednesday night. The news comes just a day before the 22-time Grand Slam champion was set to play in what would have been his first official match since January.

Nadal, 37, missed most of last season due to a hip injury that he needed surgery to treat. He expressed "great sadness" over missing the tournament at Southern California's Indian Wells in his written statement:

"Everyone knows how much I love this place and how much I love to play here," the Spanish tennis legend said. "But I don’t find myself ready to play at the highest level at such an important event. It is not an easy decision, it’s a tough one as a matter of fact but I can’t lie to myself and lie to the thousands of fans."

In the years since the 2022 US Open, Nadal has played in just 12 official matches. Nadal was eliminated from the Australian Open by Alex Zverev of Germany on Jan. 24, his last major outing.

His most recent appearance was a loss to fellow countryman Carlos Alcaraz during the Netflix Slam in Las Vegas on Sunday. He had won two of his three contests against the 20-year-old entering the exhibition. Nadal's statement mentioned that he has been "working hard and practicing," referencing his training in the California desert in preparation for Indian Wells before the loss to Alcaraz.

Nadal, who holds three BNP Paribas Open's championship titles, has a 59-11 record at the hard-court tournament.

Tournament director Tommy Haas lamented his absence in a statement, which announced that Nadal will be replaced by Sumit Nagal of India.

"We are disappointed that Rafa is unable to play in the BNP Paribas Open, but we wish him continued healing and hope he can be back in action again soon," Haas wrote. "He is one of the all-time fan favorites here, and we hope to see him back in Indian Wells again in the future."

On Thursday, Nagal will take on Canada's Milos Raonic. Fans will be offered refunds to account for Nadal's withdrawal, the release added.