Rafael Nadal discovers date for comeback match. Can he face Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz or Jannik Sinner?

Shahida Jacobs
Rafael Nadal with Indian Wells trophy
Rafael Nadal of Spain poses with the Indian Wells trophy

Rafael Nadal has recovered from his latest injury setback and he will make his return to action at the Indian Wells Open with his first match now confirmed by organisers.

The 22-time Grand Slam winner sustained a muscle injury at the Brisbane International during the first few days of the new season and he was then forced to miss the season-opening Grand Slam, the Australian Open.

He was then scheduled to play at the Qatar Open in February, but also withdrew stating: “Unfortunately I am not ready to compete.

“I will focus on keep working to be ready for the exhibition in Las Vegas and the amazing Indian Wells tournament.”

That exhibition event – titled The Netflix Slam – is scheduled for March 3 against Carlos Alcaraz and four days later Nadal will return to competitive action on the ATP Tour.

Organisers of the Indian Wells Open have confirmed that the Spaniard “will make his return to action in Indian Wells during the evening session on Thursday, March 7”.

Evening sessions at the Tennis Garden Centre in California start at 18:00 local time (02:00 GMT) so European viewers will be in for a late evening – or early morning if you do end up going to bed early.

Nadal is yet to find out his opponent with the draw for the ATP Masters 1000 event set to be completed on March 4.

READ MORE: 2024 Indian Wells Open: Will Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Rafael Nadal play? When is the draw?

The three-time Indian Wells champion, who used his protected ranking to enter as he has slipped to No 654 in the world, isn’t seeded for the event so he will be in first-round action.

There is good news for Nadal as he won’t face any of the seeded players in his opening match as they all have byes but he will be up against a seeded player if he reaches the second round.

That means he could face world No 1 Novak Djokovic, two-time Grand Slam Alcaraz or tennis’ newest Grand Slam winner Jannik Sinner in the second round.

Nadal won the Indian Wells Open in 2007, 2009 and 2013 while he also finished runner-up at his last appearance in 2022 when he lost the final against Taylor Fritz in straight sets.

The 37-year-old has indicated that this is likely to be his Indian Wells farewell as he has previously admitted that the 2024 season will probably be his last as a professional following his injury struggles in 2023.

However, there have been suggestions in recent weeks that he could opt to continue in 2025.