February 26, 2024
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Returning from one injury to play at the Paris Masters, Rafael Nadal has been pulled out with another one. But this time it wasn’t the troublesome right knee which had sidelined him since the US Open semi-finals in early September, but  an abdominal injury which just crept up on him.

Given his history of injuries, Nadal listened to advice and did not play his second round match against Fernando Verdasco on Wednesday. “The last few days I start to feel a little bit the abdominal, especially when I was serving,” Nadal said. “The doctor says that is recommended to not play, because if I continue the abdominal maybe can break and can be a major thing.”

This latest injury could cost him his Number 1 ranking, which goes back to longtime rival Novak Djokovic next week. Djokovic lost his top ranking to Andy Murray at the Paris Masters two years ago. As he then struggled to come back from a lingering elbow injury, Serb’s ranking plummeted to Number 22 in May this year.

But Djokovic has completely turned his form around, winning four of the last five tournaments he has entered, including Wimbledon, the US Open and most recently the Shanghai Masters. The 14-time Grand Slam champion’s brilliant comeback makes him the first player to reach Number 1 after being ranked below 20th in the same season since Marat Safin in 2000, according to the ATP Tour.

Djokovic faces Damir Dzumhur in the third round, the first time they have played each other. For Nadal, it is the second straight year he has withdrawn from the Paris indoor tournament and he is not sure if he will play at the season ending ATP Finals in London, starting 11 November.

“I cannot answer. I just go day by day,” the 17-time Grand Slam champion said. “The most important thing for me is to be healthy, be healthy and have the chance to compete weeks in a row. Something that I was not able to do this year, playing only nine events and retiring in two.”

Nadal has dealt with on and off knee problems for years and prefers to be cautious. At the US Open, he retired during his match against Juan Martin del Potro. He then skipped the Asia swing to recover, missing tournaments in Beijing and Shanghai.

“It has been a tough year for me in terms of injuries so I want to avoid drastic things,” Nadal said. “The doctor says if I want to play the tournament, I want to try to win the tournament, the abdominal with break for sure.”

Nadal is optimistic his latest injury will pass, providing he does not rush back. “It would not be fair to say it’s a real injury today but what is sure, if I continue it will be a real injury,” he said. “When you come back after injuries, and you push a little bit, the body at the beginning some issues can happen.”

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