Novak Djokovic reacts to Rafael Nadal’s Indian Wells withdrawal as he reflects on Australian Open

Ewan West
Novak Djokovic press conference Indian Wells 2024
Novak Djokovic speaks at a press conference in Indian Wells

Novak Djokovic has given his reaction to Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal from the 2024 Indian Wells Open, while he also reflected on his semi-final defeat at the Australian Open. 

The great Serbian admitted he did not feel he had “the proper time to rest and to do a proper preparation block” for the Australian Open given his late finish to the 2023 season.

In Indian Wells, Nadal and Djokovic were both in the same draw of a tournament for the first time since the 2023 Australian Open, but the Spaniard was forced to withdraw due to his physical condition.

Nadal was set to face 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic in the first round in Indian Wells on Thursday, but he pulled out on the opening day of the Masters 1000 event.

“It is with great sadness that I have to withdraw from this amazing tournament. Everyone knows how much I love this place and how much I love to play here at Indian Wells,” the 22-time major champion said in a statement.

“That’s also one of the reasons why I came very early to the desert to practice and try to get ready. I have been working hard and practicing and you all know I took a test this weekend but I don’t find myself ready to play at the highest level at such an important event.

“It is not an easy decision, it’s a tough one as a matter of fact but I can’t lie to myself and lie to the thousands of fans. I will miss you all and I am sure the tournament will be a great success.”

The 37-year-old has not played an ATP event since making his return from almost a year out of action in Brisbane in January, where he suffered a hip injury during his quarter-final loss to Jordan Thompson.

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In a press conference ahead of his appearance in Indian Wells, Djokovic was asked about the fact his great rival Nadal was not able to compete.

“It’s sad for the tournament that Rafa had to withdraw and also for him. I actually travelled with him to America, that was not planned,” the 36-year-old said.

“It was nice to see him and his family, and I know he came in early because he really wanted to adjust to the time zone, get as much practice as possible, get himself ready to play, that’s why he came in early. He gave his best but it wasn’t to be.”

The world No 1 addressed the disappointment of not adding to his record of 10 Australian Open titles at the 2024 edition of the Grand Slam, where he lost to Jannik Sinner in the last four.

“Australia has been a place where I’ve won the most Slams. Most of my career, I was starting the seasons with a Grand Slam trophy, which of course gives you huge wind in the sails for the rest of the season,” the 24-time major winner reflected.

“And when you start the year in such fashion, you have more confidence. Also I guess you feel a big relief. I didn’t feel like I really had the proper time to rest and to do a proper preparation block like maybe I would normally do. But it is what it is.

“I don’t think I played my best tennis in Australia, whereas Jannik did, and he was just far better player than me that day [in the semi-finals]. And after that, he he made an incredible comeback in the final and won his first title. So it was absolutely deserved.”

Djokovic also discussed being back in Indian Wells, where he is a five-time champion, having not played the tournament since 2016.

“It feels great. There’s a reason why they call it Tennis Paradise. It’s an enjoyable experience for players, for fans,” the Serbian said.

“Anybody that really loves the sport enjoys this tournament very much. So I was very excited to come back. It’s been five years and time flies incredibly fast.”

Djokovic will face world No 69 Aleksandar Vukic in the second round in Indian Wells.

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