Toni Nadal claims Rafael Nadal has ‘no choice’ but to play Indian Wells as he issues update

Ewan West
Rafael Nadal in Brisbane
Rafael Nadal smiles as he leaves the court in Brisbane

Toni Nadal has asserted that Rafael Nadal has “no choice” but to play at next month’s Indian Wells Masters because he “needs to compete” and “hasn’t done it for too long.”

The renowned coach also said that the possibility of Nadal playing next season will depend on how this year goes, but feels the level he produced in his comeback in Brisbane was “very positive.”

The Mallorcan coached his nephew Nadal from his childhood until 2017, helping him win 16 of his 22 Grand Slam titles. The 63-year-old is the director of the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca and has also been working with ATP player Felix Auger-Aliassime since 2021.

Nadal is set to make his return to competitive action at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Indian Wells, which will be played from March 6-17. The 37-year-old suffered a hip muscle injury while playing his first tournament for almost a year at the Brisbane International last month, where he reached the quarter-finals.

Prior to Brisbane, Nadal had not played a match since losing to Mackenzie McDonald in the second round of the 2023 Australian Open, where he sustained a more serious hip injury. The former world No 1 underwent arthroscopic surgery to treat the psoas muscle in his hip in June 2023.

READ MORE: ‘Rafael Nadal will without a doubt play next season if he avoids injuries’ – former world No 3

The 22-time major winner is a three-time champion in Indian Wells, having triumphed at the event in the Californian desert in 2007, 2009 and 2013.

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In an interview with AS, Toni Nadal doubled down on his belief that Nadal can win a 15th French Open title this year and discussed his nephew’s current situation.

“I prefer to say that he is going to win [at Roland Garros]. Then we’ll see. I know it’s difficult, but I always try to be positive and I hope that my nephew can play a great role both in the [Olympic] Games and at Roland Garros,” the 63-year-old said.

“Obviously [the setback in Brisbane was difficult], because his first games indicated that he was, more or less, playing well, and then he had this little discomfort. It was a shame, really. But things have to be accepted as they come.

“[His first matches were] very positive, because after so long without competing, I think he played at a good level. I see him training at the academy and I think that’s how it is.”

The Spaniard was also asked whether it was possible that 2024 would not be Nadal’s final season if it goes well.

“This will depend on how the year goes, how you feel physically, how you look. We’re going to wait,” Nadal explained.

The coach went on to insist that competing in Indian Wells was essential for Nadal: “It’s that he needs to compete. He has no choice. He hasn’t done it for too long. And of course, if you don’t compete, you can’t be prepared.”

READ MORE: Rafael Nadal reveals the two most important matches of his career – and one is surprising