For the second year in a row, Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal was forced to withdraw from the Miami Open with an injury. Fifth-ranked Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, like Nadal a favorite of South Florida’s Hispanic fans, also pulled out with a knee injury.
Nadal, the world’s No. 2-ranked player, has been battling tendinitis in his knees for many years and on Saturday he pulled out of his scheduled semifinal against rival Roger Federer at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. He also announced he would skip the Miami Open, which begins Monday and runs through March 31.
He missed the 2018 Miami tournament with a hip injury.
James Blake, the Miami Open Tournament Director, said his stomach sank when he saw Nadal calling for a trainer during his quarterfinal match at Indian Wells.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
“Rafa’s absolutely one of the greatest ambassadors in sports in general, so you always want to see him play and see him healthy,” Blake said on Sunday morning. “When he calls a trainer, you know it’s for a reason. He’s a guy through competes through anything. His body has taken such a toll with the way he plays and how much tennis he plays.
“It’s too bad. I wish him all the best. We’ll miss him here but we’re in a golden era of tennis, so we’re lucky to have one of the other greatest of all time, if not the greatest, in Roger Federer, and then Novak, who’s making his bid. And, in my mind, greatest of all time on the women’s side Serena (Williams). So, we’re going to miss Rafa, but the show must go on and we’ve still got unbelievable talent out there for fans to watch.”
Nadal will head back to Spain to prepare for the clay tournament at Monte Carlo, which begins April 15.
“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,’’ said a somber Nadal. “I don’t have doubts today that I will be ready for Monte Carlo.”
Nadal’s right knee flared up in the second set of his 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-2) quarterfinal win over Karen Khachanov on Friday at Indian Wells. He called for a trainer twice during the match.
He hoped to be feeling better by Saturday, in time for the highly-anticipated semifinal against Federer, but decided he couldn’t play.
“I warmed up (Saturday) in the morning, and I felt that my knee was not enough good to compete at the level that I need to compete,” he said.
The year started off well for Nadal, who didn’t drop a set in reaching his fifth Australian Open final, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.
“I felt more or less OK during this beginning of the season in terms of my knee,” he said. “Now it starts the process that I have to decide what direction we have to take to recover well and to recover as soon as possible.”