Implications of Rafael Nadal's withdrawal from Indian Wells

Nadal continues to struggle to find his health and competitive form

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Sadly, American tennis fans will not see Rafael Nadal on the court of Indian Wells. The Spaniard withdrew from the tournament late Wednesday evening though the indications that he may not be able to play were evident as early as Sunday's Netflix Slam.

Retired tennis player and tennis analyst Jim Courier noticed that Nadal was not 100% in Las Vegas on Sunday. He competed well in spite of it, but that was one match, and Indian Wells is a two-week tournament.

Nadal was also spotted on the Indian Wells practice courts serving with a very limited motion on Wednesday sparking speculation that he may not be able to face Milos Raonic in the scheduled first round match on Thursday, March 7.

What Nadal's withdrawal means

In the near term, it means that he will likely focus on clay court preparations for one last run at Roland Garros in May. And it pains me to say it, but it also raises the possibility that he may not be physically prepared for the French Open when it begins May 26. It was heartbreaking when he could not compete last year, and it could happen again.

Nadal will not go into the French Open without clay court matches under his belt. Tournaments to pay close attention to are the Spanish clay court tournaments that he has dominated. They are the Barcelona Open ATP 500 occurring between April 15 and April 21 and the Mutua Madrid Open ATP 1000 happening between April 24 and May 5. Nadal is the 12-time champion in Barcelona and the 5-time champion in Madrid.

His Indian Wells withdrawal also casts into doubt any possibility of him playing the Olympics because he may not be eligible given his extensive time off the court with injuries the past two years. To put it bluntly, any time we see Nadal on the court in 2024 will be a blessing, but the opportunites could be few and far between.

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