Rafael Nadal urged not to rush back again after latest setback

Rafael Nadal is expected to return to action for the clay-court season, but his doctor admits they will adopt a cautious approach this time around.

Having been forced to miss the bulk of the ATP World Tour Finals late last year due to injury, the 16-time Grand Slam winner started his 2018 season late as he took part in the Australian Open without competing in warm-up events.

He made it to the quarter-final in Melbourne before he retired during the fifth set against Marin Cilic.

After sitting out several weeks, he was expected to make his comeback at the Mexican Open last week only to withdraw on the eve of the event.

His doctor Angel Ruiz Cotorro concedes they have to be a lot more careful this time around and says he will “play again when he is well”.

“When you are about to compete and in your last training session this happens, obviously it affects you and it’s difficult,” he told Spanish paper El Pais. “It’s in a muscle and not in a tendon, which would have been a lot worse.

“The bad thing is that he hurt himself in an area that was already affected and this is something unusual. It is not the same as the previous injury, but in the same area. Rafa was practicing in a normal way and everything was on the right track.

“It has forced him to change plans and if we were very cautious before, we need to be even more [cautious] now.”

He added: “We have to be optimistic, because we have always been optimists, but we must also be realistic and now, seeing what has happened, we have to be as cautious as possible. Rafa will play again when he is well.”

Nadal is expected to return just in time for the clay-court season with the Monte Carlo Masters, which starts on April 16, likely to be his first tournament back.

“We think that he will have recovered by the clay-court season, that is the goal,” Cotorro said.

“Rafa should rest for two or three weeks and then have a progressive rehabilitation, but as always it depends on how everything goes. It’s an injury that needs to be followed closely, so we will take it week-by-week, without rushing.”