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Injured Nadal Pulls Out Putting Federer Through To Play In The Final By Alix Ramsay

Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts to questions after announcing his withdrawal from his semifinal match against Roger Federer of Switzerland due to injury during the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, USA, 16 March 2019. The men’s and women’s final will be played, 17 March 2019. EPA-EFE/JOHN G. MABANGLO



It was just as everyone feared: Rafa Nadal and his delicate knees were in no state to take on Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open. Yet again, he had worked himself into a rich vein of form only for a bit of him to break down and end his challenge.


“I warm up today in the morning, and I felt that my knee was not enough good to compete,” he said sadly, “to compete at the level that I need to compete, to play semi-finals match of this event.


“For me is not about only today. It’s about what 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.


“Sometimes is tough and can be frustrating for me sometimes personally to go through all this stuff.”


It is not often you hear Rafa complain about his lot – and, to be fair, this wasn’t a full-on moan; it was more a sigh of despair on an utterly lousy day – so it was clear that he was struggling not only with the injury but with the ramifications of another enforced break from tour.


To have reached the Australian Open final after four months of sick leave was positive; to take an absolute hiding from Novak Djokovic in that final was sobering but, even so, it was a launch-pad for the next phase of the season. And then his knee went again and he was facing weeks on the sidelines, there to watch his rivals play and win and pick up titles.


“What I gonna do is come back home and try to do a smooth transition to clay,” he said. “Try to be 100 per cent for the first event. That gonna be Monte-Carlo for me.


“Now it starts the process that I have to decide what direction we have to take to recover well and to recover as soon as possible.


“Being honest, I don’t have doubts today that I will be ready for Monte-Carlo. But at the same time, I need to check with my people what’s the best way to proceed now. It is a situation that we were not expecting at this point, so now we need to adjust a little bit all the calendar.”


As for the actual injury, it was the same problem that has plagued him for more than a dozen years. As soon as it flares up, he knows exactly what to do and what will happen next. What is worse is that it never really goes away.


“Some moments are better; some moments are worse,” he said. “Always stays there. And always remind me, limit me to practice less the way that I want and to play less than I want. But it’s not the moment to complain much. With all this stuff, I still where I am today.


“And the week have been positive until yesterday. So I feel myself competitive when I am healthy, and my goal is to be healthy as many weeks as possible to keep playing and at the highest level possible and for the most important things.”


The next most important thing is Monte Carlo next month. That will be the base camp as he prepares himself for a 12th title challenge at Roland Garros. But, for the moment, that is little comfort.


On Sunday, as Rafa heads home to Majorca, it will be Federer against Dominic Thiem in the final. Thiem, who is more at home on a clay court than any other, reached his first hard court Masters 1000 final by beating Milos Raonic 7-6, 6-7, 6-4. Facing break point as he served for the match, he held his nerve and looked as happy as a kid in a sweet shop when he finally got the job done.


“In general, it was a very good match because the only break point I had to save was in the last game,” Thiem said. “That was what I wanted to do, to play my service games well and not let him have too many chances.


“I was preparing 12 days here before the tournament. That helped, of course, a lot. This surface and also the one in New York, for example, it suits me pretty well, because it’s bouncy, especially during the day. It’s not too fast, so it’s a little bit more similar than a clay court. And clay is my home.”


Now, though, he has to find a way past the Mighty Fed. They have played four times with honours even. Thiem’s two wins also came in 2016, one on clay and one on grass, when Federer was still recovering from knee surgery and was also hampered by a bad back. When they last met, Fed was perfectly healthy, if a little tired, at the ATP Finals last year and he clumped the Austrian in two swift sets.


Then again, Thiem is on a fabulous run this week and having never beaten Raonic before, he was a solid as a rock in the semi-final. There is a first time for everything: Saturday was the first time for beating Raonic. Maybe Sunday is his first time for winning a Masters 1000 trophy. Watch this space.

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