Tennis

Nadal injury robs Federer of battle with great rival

Rafael Nadal withdrew from his Indian Wells semi-final clash with Roger Federer due to a knee injury yesterday, leaving the Swiss great to rue missing a chance for both ageing rivals to face off on the court.

It would have been the 39th meeting in the long rivalry between Federer, 37, and Nadal, 32, and the first since 2017, prompting the Swiss to say "it's a big letdown", a sentiment felt by everyone at Indian Wells.

"I am obviously excited to be in the final, but not this way," said Federer. "We've had so many epic battles and I know now that every one we have could be our last. Was this our last chance? I hope not."

Federer received a walkover into the final, where he was scheduled to play Dominic Thiem this morning (Singapore time) for his 101st career title and a record sixth Indian Wells crown.

Meanwhile, Nadal returned home to Mallorca and would not play in the upcoming Miami Open. The Spaniard hopes to be ready for the Monte Carlo Masters, which begins on April 14.

It was just the fifth time in Nadal's career that he had conceded a walkover and the first to Federer.

"I warmed up today and I felt that my knee was not good to compete at the level I needed to compete in semi-final," Nadal said in a statement.

"It's tough for me to accept all these things that I'm going through in my career."

The knee had begun to bother Nadal in the second set of his 7-6(7/2), 7-6(7/2) victory over Karen Khachanov in the quarter-finals on Saturday.

"For me, it is not about today only," said the world No. 2, who had not dropped a set in reaching the semi-finals.

"It's about what it means for me to have to pull out in a tournament that I love so much like this one, and in the semi-finals after playing well during the whole tournament.

"You can imagine that I can't be happy." - REUTERS

Tennis