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Rafa Nadal 'sad' after worrying late withdrawal from Indian Wells stuns tennis fans

The Spanish superstar has left fans devastated ahead of his expected return.

The tennis world has once again been left reeling after Rafa Nadal delayed his return having withdrawn from Indian Wells at the last moment. Nadal hasn't played competitive tennis since injuring his troublesome hip ahead of the Australian Open this year, which saw him withdraw a week out from the tournament.

Before his two games in January this year, Nadal hadn't played since the Australian Open in 2023 after injuring his hip in the second round. The 37-year-old was expected to take part in the Qatar Open in February, but his withdrawal left fans confused.

The tennis world has once again been left reeling after Rafa Nadal (pictured) has withdrawn from Indian Wells. (Getty Images)
The tennis world has once again been left reeling after Rafa Nadal (pictured) has withdrawn from Indian Wells. (Getty Images)

And in the biggest blow yet, Nadal has announced he isn't ready to take part in the 'fifth major' with his preparation not ideal in the build-up to his match against Milos Raonic in the first round. "It is with great sadness that I have to withdraw from this amazing tournament at Indian Wells. Everyone knows how much I love this place and how much I love to play here. That’s also one of the reasons why I came very early to the desert to practice and try to get ready," he wrote.

"I have been working hard and practicing and you all know I took a test this weekend 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. I will miss you all and I am sure the tournament will be a great success."

Nadal's latest withdrawal follows his claim that his goal has always been trying to make a major push in the clay court campaign in the build-up to Roland Garros. Playing on hard courts has been an issue for Nadal and the Spaniard will clearly wait for the clay season before timing his return. Fans were left devastated at the news as his retirement appears to approaching.

Rafa Nadal takes on Carlos Alcaraz in Netflix slam

He most recently played in the Netflix Slam against fellow Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, but the exhibition match was clearly not enough to convince the 37-year-old to take part at Indian Wells. Playing in front of a a sellout crowd of 9,489 in Las Vegas, the veteran Spaniard took the first set after an impressive display against his young compatriot. Alcaraz - playing after an ankle injury he suffered at the Rio Open in February - took out the second set, before clinching the win in a champions super tiebreak.

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Nadal's performance had many excited for what would come at Indian Wells, but his movement appeared quite sluggish and his fitness was clearly a worry heading into the ATP 1000 Masters event. Nadal has admitted he's not sure what the future holds for this year's French Open and beyond, amid suggestions 2024 could be his final year in the sport.

Rafa Nadal reacts during a match.
Rafa Nadal (pictured) has withdrawn from Indian Wells. (David Becker via Getty Images)

The match against Alcaraz provided a good test for Nadal ahead of the Indian Wells hard-court tournament kicking off this week - in what will be Nadal's first official match since the 2023 Australian Open. "It was great. I was supposed to be here last year (but) unfortunately due to some issues, I was not able to be here," Nadal said after the match.

"I enjoyed a lot. Congratulations to Carlos for a great match. And on a personal level, yeah great. I was not able to play a lot for the last two years so to play here with Carlos in front of an amazing crowd in Las Vegas means a lot to me. Super happy."

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