Rafa Nadal has made the stunning decision to withdraw from the upcoming Miami Masters in a move that has left tennis fans saddened.
The Australian Open champ kicked off his Indian Wells campaign on Saturday with an incredible third-set fightback to beat Sebastian Korda.
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Off to the best start of any season in his legendary career, the World No.4 continued his 16-match unbeaten streak by downing Korda 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (7/3).
However fans were left stunned earlier in the day when Nadal announced that he won't be playing in Miami - the second half of the 'Sunshine Double' after Indian Wells.
Nadal is a five-time finalist at the event, but hasn’t played in Miami since 2017.
His absence means that neither of the winners of this year’s first grand slam event will be at the tournament after women’s champion Ash Barty also withdrew earlier this month.
“Rafa will certainly be missed. He has so many fans here in South Florida, and we hope to see him back in Miami next year,” Miami tournament director James Blake said.
The decision to skip the March 21 event makes sense for 35-year-old Nadal as it gives him more time to prepare for the European clay-court season.
Nadal said prior to the start of his Indian Wells campaign that the foot injury that had him on crutches six months ago remains a concern.
"The foot is not going to be 100 percent recovered, never," he said. "Pain, I have dire pain on the foot.
"For the moment I can be happy about things. But at some point I'm going to need to do a little more treatment, maybe stop for a little while.
"I have to find the right balance between competing and finding the moments to stop and to do the things to try to play as long as possible.
"If I am able to plan the right way my calendar and follow my calendar, I really can't ask for anything more.
"That's my goal. I am here. I am super happy to be in Indian Wells now, and then I don't know what's going to happen, but I am just enjoying every single day here, and that's it."
Nevertheless, fans were gutted that they won't see Nadal play in Miami - one of the biggest events on the calendar outside of the four grand slams.
Sad news. Hopefully nothing serious and can play in Miami.
— Dan Zavala (@DanZavala2013) March 12, 2022
Is he fully fit for French open?
— Parth shah (@pns251092) March 12, 2022
Oh no! I hope his foot is okay, and he is just taking precautions.
— Nasty Antifa also Notorious Woman (@deweydecimates) March 12, 2022
— Paco (@fguzmane) March 12, 2022
Nadal has given up on the Miami title.
He knows how important the clay season will be so he is prioritizing.
Djokovic has one last chance to recover the AO disaster by winning the FO. https://t.co/v7p4n3s9dD
— Ru 🦜 (@RuTheRealest) March 12, 2022
Surprised he's not going after it as the career masters is one a the few feathers Novak has that he doesn't.
— AxonRey (@Axonrey) March 12, 2022
Rafa Nadal's incredible comeback to win at Indian Wells
Nadal rallied from two breaks down in the third set to beat Korda on Saturday and improve his perfect 2022 start to 16-0.
Nadal trailed 5-2 in the third set before winning four straight games with two breaks of Korda to take a 6-5 lead.
Korda held at 6-all to force a tiebreaker. The World No.38 led 3-2 and then Nadal reeled off five straight points to close out the two and a half hour match.
Earlier, Daniil Medvedev beat Tomas Machac 6-3, 6-2 in the Russian’s first tournament since ascending to World No.1.
Medvedev made quick work of his Czech opponent, finishing Machac off in just over an hour.
The Russian won 80 per cent of his first-serve points and saved the lone break point he faced.
“If I’m going to lose it because I’m either going to play a bad match or my opponent is going to play an amazing one, there is the next tournament in Miami,” he said.
“That’s how tennis is, every week is a new story. Right now it’s Indian Wells week and I want to make it a good story.”
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