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The 22-time Grand Slam champion had been due to open at Indian Wells on Thursday against Canada's former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic. Image Credit: AP

Indian Wells, United States: Rafael Nadal abandoned his planned ATP Tour comeback at the Indian Wells Masters on Wednesday, saying he was not ready for the demands of tournament tennis on the eve of his opening match in California.

The Spanish icon's bombshell decision came four days after the 37-year-old lost a Las Vegas exhibition to compatriot and world number two Carlos Alcaraz.

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Nadal missed almost all of the 2023 season with abdominal and other injuries and has played only the Brisbane International this season, where he suffered a flare-up of a hip injury.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion had been due to open at Indian Wells on Thursday against Canada's former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic.

"It is with great sadness that I have to withdraw from this amazing tournament at Indian Wells," Nadal said in a statement.

"I have been working hard ... 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."

Indian Wells tournament director Tommy Haas expressed disappointment at Nadal's withdrawal.

"We wish him continued healing and hope he can be back in action again soon," Haas said. "He is one of the all-time fan favorites here, and we hope to see him back in Indian Wells again in the future."

On Sunday, Nadal had given an encouraging performance in his Las Vegas clash with Alcaraz.

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Rafael Nadal of Spain waves to the crowd in his match against Dominic Thiem of Austria during the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane, Australia. Image Credit: AP

After suffering a muscle tear in Brisbane in January, Nadal withdrew from the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the season.

He then scrapped plans to return to action at the Qatar Open in February, saying he was "not ready to compete."

In a world of pain: Rafael Nadal's career-long battle with injuries

Rafael Nadal on Wednesday withdrew from the ATP-WTA Indian Wells Masters, abandoning plans to make his comeback after barely playing in 2023 and making only one tournament appearance this year in January.

The 22-time Grand Slam title winner has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, including missing 11 majors through a series of knee, feet, ankle, abdomen and wrist problems.

2003: Elbow
Two years after his professional debut, Nadal experienced his first physical problems which forced him to withdraw from the French Open after picking up an elbow injury in training.

2004: Left foot
Just 18, Nadal misses the French Open and Wimbledon due to a broken bone in his foot.

2009: Knee
In June, Nadal, having already experienced a first ever loss at the French Open, suffers tendinitis in his knees, depriving him of the opportunity to defend the Wimbledon title he had won 12 months earlier in an epic final against Roger Federer.

In September, Nadal is knocked out of the US Open semi-finals admitting to playing with an abdominal tear.

2012: Knee
Tendonitis in his left knee forces Nadal out of the Olympics where he was the defending champion. The Spanish star also sits out the US Open due to issues with his left knee.

2014: Back
Despite a back problem, Nadal battles to the Australian Open final in January where he loses to Stan Wawrinka.

In July, a right wrist injury forces him to miss the US Open.

2016: Wrist
A left wrist injury forces Nadal to withdraw from the French Open, where he is already a nine-time champion, before the third round.

2021: Foot
In August, Nadal ends his season early due to yet more left foot problems and explains he has been suffering from Mueller-Weiss syndrome for years. This condition affects one of the bones in the foot, causing chronic pain. He has surgery in September.

2022: Rib/Foot/Abdomen
Having defeated Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals at Indian Wells, Nadal loses in the final to Taylor Fritz. He then misses several tournaments including the Monte Carlo Masters due to a cracked rib.

In May and June, Nadal endures searing pain in his left foot. After wrapping up a 14th French Open title - and 22nd Grand Slam crown - he reveals that he has to take "anesthetic injections before each match" to put his foot to sleep which allows him to play.

"It's obvious that I cannot and do not want to continue playing in these circumstances," said Nadal.

Weeks later, Nadal has to forfeit an eagerly-anticipated Wimbledon semi-final against Nick Kyrgios after suffering an abdomen tear in a gruelling last-eight clash with Fritz.

2023: Hip
In January, Nadal loses in the Australian Open second round and explains that he is suffering from a hip injury. He predicted an absence from the tour of 6-8 weeks, but eventually calls time on his season before undergoing surgery.

2024: Thigh
After almost a year on the sidelines, Nadal returns to action in Brisbane, reaching the last-eight where he loses to Jordan Thompson. He feels a pain in his left thigh and an MRI scan reveals "a micro muscle tear". He withdraws from the Australian Open and returns to Spain to consult his medical team.

After playing an exhibition game against Carlos Alcaraz in Las Vegas, Nadal withdraws from his planned ATP Tour comeback at Indian Wells, saying he is not ready to return.