Rafa Nadal has announced he has a stress fracture in his rib and will miss the next 4-6 weeks, putting his chances of playing at the French Open at risk.
The Spanish star needed treatment during the Indian Wells final on Sunday and was clearly hampered in his straight-sets defeat to Taylor Fritz.
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The loss was Nadal's first of the year and snapped his 20-match winning streak.
On Tuesday, the 21-time grand slam champion took to Twitter to reveal the devastating news that he might be out until May.
"Hello everyone, I wanted to announce that I have returned to Spain and I immediately went to visit my medical team to do the tests after the Indian Wells final that I played with discomfort," he wrote.
"As it turns out, I have a stress crack in one of my ribs and will be out for four to six weeks.
"This is not good news and I did not expect this.
"I am down and sad because after the start of the season I have had such a good time.
"I reached a very important part of the year with very good feelings and good results.
"But I've always had that fighting and overcoming spirit and what I will do is be patient and work hard after my recovery. Once again I thank everyone for the support."
The 35-year-old looks certain to miss the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open - tournaments he has won 11 and 12 times respectively.
He could also be forced to miss the Madrid Open at the beginning of May in the build-up to the French Open, which he was won an unprecedented 13 times.
The clay-court grand slam starts on May 22.
The news is a crushing blow for Nadal and his legion of fans after he was forced to miss the majority of the second half of 2021 with a foot injury.
I feared Nadal was pushing it by playing #IndianWells instead of just resting before the clay season.
The fact that he played that final with a stress crack on his left rib....and is out 4-6 weeks...DEVASTATING.
Red clay makes sense only with him on it.
— Anu Menon (@ExLolaKutty) March 22, 2022
This is heartbreaking & quite scary. How many weeks till Barcelona?
— Lana Angel Nadal (@Rafasgirlalways) March 22, 2022
— veronique (@BAULETN1) March 22, 2022
Take care. So sad for you. 😥😥❤️❤️❤️❤️
— Sharon Farrelly (@SharonFarrelly7) March 22, 2022
Sad news and I can hardly imagine what pain you were in while you played. Lots of love to you and I wish you a speedy recovery. I know you will give 100% as always when you are able to be back on court. Sending a gentle hug to you Rafa 🤗😘😘😘
— 🏆 ❤️Rafa Nadal & Then There Were TWENTY ONE!❤️🏆 (@shmoopie1812) March 22, 2022
This is such sad news for Nadal. To miss out on a chunk of the clay season, his best surface, stinks. Hopefully he can come back stronger and be ready for Roland Garros. Sending positive vibes your way @RafaelNadal. https://t.co/8Qol9RvKQP
— Serving It Up (@Serving_It_Up) March 22, 2022
Rafa Nadal's devastating new injury blow
Speaking after his loss to Fritz, Nadal said: "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 injury flared late in his semi-final victory over Carlos Alcaraz and he twice received treatment during his loss to Fritz on Sunday.
"When I'm breathing, when I'm moving it's like a needle all the time inside here," he said.
"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."
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 won a record-setting 21st major at the Australian Open in January and lifted trophies in Melbourne and Acapulco during his 20-1 start to the year.
"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."
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