Rafael Nadal fitness update: The 21-time Grand Slam winner won’t defend his Barcelona Open title

Rafael Nadal in action on the ATP Tour

Rafael Nadal won’t feature at the Barcelona Open for the first time since 2010 with the defending champion forced to miss the tournament due to injury.

The 21-time Grand Slam winner injured his rib en route to finishing runner-up at the Indian Wells Open in mid-March and was ruled out for between four and six weeks.

There were high hopes that he would make an early return to kick off his preparations for the French Open, but that won’t happen as he is still not 100% fit.

“Rafa has just been withdrawn from the entry list in Barcelona,” his team told Reuters.

“We don’t know yet when he will be at his first tournament on clay this year. Hopefully, soon.”

Nadal won his 12th title in Barcelona last year, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in three sets.

The Spaniard was in brilliant form before he succumbed to injury as he won the Melbourne Summer Set, Australian Open and Rio Open. He was 20-0 for the season before going down to Taylor Fritz in Indian Wells.

The 35-year-old is likely to make his 2022 clay-court debut at the Madrid Open, which starts on May 2, or the Italian Open a week later.