Rafael Nadal's schedule plans emerge after early season injury nightmare

Rafael Nadal looks set to miss the Miami Open once again as he carefully manages his schedule. The Spaniard has been blighted by injury since the beginning of 2023 and has played just three matches in 2024 so far.

As he aims to return to the court in March, the tournament in Miami does not appear to be part of the 37-year-old’s plans. The entry list for the Miami Open has been released and while rival Novak Djokovic leads the field, Nadal’s name is nowhere to be seen.

This is perhaps not a surprise to many, as the 22-time Grand Slam champion has not played at the Masters 1000 event since 2017. It has also not been a happy hunting ground for the former World No. 1.

He has reached the final on five separate occasions but fell short against Roger Federer in 2005 and 2017, Nikolay Davydenko in 2008 and Djokovic in 2011 and 2014. Nadal’s omission from Miami’s entry list is perhaps part of his plan to ensure he is healthy for the clay court season, which may be the last of his illustrious career.

“My priority objective is to get to the clay season in the best possible way,” he said in a recent interview with Spain’s El Objetivo. “I hope to be in Indian Wells, it will possibly be the last time I play it and it is a very special tournament for me.”

However, if Nadal decided he does in fact want to compete at the Miami Open, he would be able to accept a late wildcard. “My plans in recent years have had to deviate greatly from what I would have liked,” he admitted. “That is why we have to be flexible with decisions and try to get it right.”

After a year on the sidelines, the tennis icon made his return to action in January after suffering a hip problem at the 2023 Australian Open. He aggravated the issue at January’s Brisbane International and as a result, he was forced to pull out of the year’s first Grand slam for the second year running. He was also unable to compete in February’s Qatar Open.

The former Olympic champion is training hard at his self-titled Rafael Nadal Academy to prepare for Indian Wells and his Las Vegas exhibition with compatriot Carlos Alcaraz. The blockbuster event is set to be streamed live on Netflix for what is a one-of-a-kind event as the streaming platform looks to become more involved in sports. “I am very excited to visit Las Vegas for the first time, one of the most iconic and fun cities in the world,” Nadal said.

“And I am thrilled to play with Carlos Alcaraz.” Nadal will then return to Indian Wells, an event he has won three times in the past. He last played there in 2022 while on an unbeaten start to the season. He beat Sebastian Korda, Nick Kyrgios, Reily Opelka and Carlos Alcaraz en route to reaching the final, where Taylor Fritz ended his undefeated streak.

source: express.co.uk