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Nadal withdraws from Indian Wells; Sumit Nagal named replacement

Rafael Nadal withdrew from Indian Wells on Wednesday on the eve of his first-round match, saying he is not “ready to play at the highest level”.

The Spaniard, 37, returned to competition in Brisbane in January after almost a year sidelined with a hip flexor injury, but had to miss the Australian Open with another muscle tear.

He lost to Carlos Alcaraz in an exhibition event in Las Vegas on Sunday and looked poised to try to win a fourth title in the California desert.

“It is with great sadness that I have to withdraw from this amazing tournament,” the 22-time Grand Slam champion said in a statement.

“Everyone knows how much I love this place and how much I love to play here at Indian Wells.

“That’s also one of the reasons why I came very early to the desert to practice and try to get ready.

“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.”

Tournament director Tommy Haas said they were disappointed to lose Nadal.

“He is one of the all-time fan favourites here, and we hope to see him back in Indian Wells again in the future,” added Haas.

Nadal’s representative Benito Perez-Barbadillo said there was no fresh injury and that the Miami Open, another hardcourt event that follows Indian Wells, was never on his schedule.

Nadal will now turn his attention to his favourite surface clay with an eye toward a record-extending 15th French Open title and a second Olympic gold medal at the Paris Games, where tennis will be contested at Roland Garros.

Nadal will be replaced by lucky loser Sumit Nagal.

The 26-year-old Nagal had lost in the second round of the qualifying tournament but got the big break as he was the highest ranked player in that draw. He is currently placed 101st in the ATP rankings and was entitled to go through in case of a last-minute main draw withdrawal.

The Indian will take on Canada’s Milos Raonic, a 2016 Wimbledon finalist who is on protected rankings. Players injured for a minimum of six months can seek a protected ranking, which is an average of their ranking during the first three months of injury.

(With inputs from PTI)

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