INDIAN WELLS, US: A dejected Rafael Nadal pulled out of his Indian Wells semi-final against old foe Roger Federer yesterday with a right knee injury and said he’ll turn his attention to getting fit for the claycourt season.
In the final, Federer, 37, will play Dominic Thiem who downed Milos Raonic 7-6 (7/3), 6-7 (3/7), 6-4 in the other semi-final match yesterday.
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.”
World No. 2 Nadal had made it to the last four without dropping a set, so it was devastating when knee pain flared up during his 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/2) quarter-vinal win 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 practiced yesterday 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.