A dejected Rafael Nadal pulled out of his Indian Wells semi-final against old foe Roger Federer on Saturday with a right knee injury and said he’ll turn his attention to getting fit for the claycourt season.
The Spanish superstar, who has battled knee tendinitis and other injuries throughout his career, confirmed he won’t compete at next week’s Miami Masters, targeting a return to competition at Monte Carlo April 14-21.
“What I’m going to do is come back home and try to do a smooth transition to clay, try to be 100 percent for the first event, that’s going to be Monte Carlo for me,” Nadal said.
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World number two Nadal had made it to the last four without dropping a set, so it was especially devastating when knee pain flared up during his 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/2) quarter-final victory over Russian Karen Khachanov on Friday.
He soldiered through to what would have been a 39th career meeting with Federer, but said he knew when he practised Saturday morning that he wouldn’t be able to play to an adequate standard.
“I wanted to try my best to be competitive today,” he said.
“I warmed up today in the morning, and I felt that my knee was not enough good to compete at the level that I need to compete, to play semi-finals match of this event.”
It’s particularly devastating since Nadal was looking forward to a relatively healthy 2019 campaign after coping with multiple injuries last year.
Nadal reached the final at the Australian Open, and while he lost in straight sets to Novak Djokovic he said it was a positive sign after he had to pull the plug early on his 2018 season.
His run at the first Grand Slam of the year marked his return to competition for the first time since a similar knee problem forced him to retire from his US Open semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro in September.
He underwent surgery on his ankle to remove an intra-articular loose body in November and only resumed training in December.
While Nadal said he feels knee pain “almost always”, in the face of this latest setback he insisted: “My goal doesn’t change”.
“Even if sometimes it’s tough for me to accept all these things that I am going through during all my career, sometimes I feel sad because I feel always in disadvantage compared with all my opponents in terms of preparation and in terms of practice and sometimes under competition,” an emotional Nadal said.
“But at the same time, in the other hand, I went through fantastic moments and still going with that feeling a lot of times. So I’m just going to keep going. I’m just going to keep doing the things that work well for me and accepting that sometimes these issues can happen.
“All the things that are in my hands I am doing well. The things that I can’t control, I can’t control.”