Tennis fans have been left devastated after Rafa Nadal revealed the worrying extent of a new injury suffered at Indian Wells.
The 21-time grand slam champion missed the majority of the second half of 2021 with a persistent foot injury, but roared back to his brilliant best as he won 20-straight matches to begin 2022.
'NEED HELP': Ben Stiller responds after shock Nick Kyrgios moment
However it all came undone in the Indian Wells final on Sunday as Nadal suffered a mystery chest injury and went down in straight sets to Taylor Fritz.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, Nadal couldn't hide his disappointment at the new injury concerns and the worry about what it might mean for the clay-court season and his chances of a 14th French Open title.
"Honestly, I wanted to make it perfect before clay," Nadal said of his 20-1 start to the year that saw him win the Australian Open title and lift trophies in Melbourne and Acapulco.
"Honestly I am sad because of the way I was not able to compete.
"It is tough to have these feelings, especially every day, but in the final is very, very ugly, no?"
The oft-injured Nadal admitted he did not yet have a diagnosis of the problem that caused him to feel pain and shortness of breath.
It began late in his semi-final victory over 18-year-old compatriot Carlos Alcaraz and he twice received treatment during his loss to Fritz on Sunday.
"I had pain, honestly," Nadal said. "I have problem to breathe. I don't know if it's something on the rib, I don't know yet.
"When I'm breathing, when I'm moving it's like a needle all the time inside here.
"I get dizzy a little bit because it's painful. It's a kind of pain that limit me a lot.
"Is not only about pain, I don't feel very well because affects my breathing."
Tennis fans saddened by latest Rafa Nadal injury
It's the latest in a litany of injuries for Nadal, whose Australian Open triumph was his record-setting 21st grand slam title.
The 35-year-old saw his 2021 season cut short by foot pain that he feared could end his career, and he previously revealed that he'll have to manage the foot injury for the foreseeable future.
Nadal said his resurgence had brought him joy, and now he's focused on figuring out how to solve his latest physical problem.
"I am sad now, but I am not the kind of person that goes down or goes very high emotionally depending on the moment," he said.
"The last months have been amazing, unforgettable, very emotional.
"I enjoyed things that I never thought I could live again a few months ago.
"Now it's the moment to try to solve this problem as soon as possible, try to start on clay.
"The thing that worries me now, it's about what's going on there, what I have to do now to recover and how long going to take."
Nadal won't play at this week's Miami Open - regarded as the second half of the 'Sunshine Double' with Indian Wells.
Fans took to social media to express their sadness for the Spanish champion after his latest injury setback.
It was SO sad to watch this. He obviously was not at all well during the match and will need proper medical treatment. He has a tennis career of incredible wins and records. Fritz will be so happy to have his first Masters win. 🎾🎾👏👏👏👏👏👏🎾🎾
— Julien Duncan (@julienDuncan1) March 21, 2022
It’s so sad to see Rafa in pain 😌
— NBlue (@NOOSH86812995) March 21, 2022
So so sad, Rafa fighting spirit became a liability at age 36 of his career now, I hope someone can tell him, he needs to save his body and focus on grand slam, not every match is worth fighting and risking your body! Buts it’s rafa, it’s part of his gene! Hope he say stays health
— Bengtion (@Bengtion12) March 21, 2022
.@RafaelNadal my hero…my inspiration….I’m so so sad for you 💔
— Marlina Ayu (@Marlinaayu) March 21, 2022
This was a sad to see Nadal so depressed . But for all he’s accomplished I don’t know why he took this loss so hard. He just won the AO, he can’t win every time. How quickly one forgets that which they’ve done in the past-:)
— Dawn (@Dawn91273141) March 21, 2022
It’s heartbreaking to see Rafa in so much pain 😭
— Lana Angel Nadal (@Rafasgirlalways) March 21, 2022
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.