Rafael Nadal’s withdraw from upcoming tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami will see an incredible 18-year streak come to an end.
The Spanish superstar was forced to withdraw from the events as he recovers from a hip flexor injury, which ended his Australian Open campaign prematurely.
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He made the final of Indian Wells in 2022 so he’ll lose 600 points by failing to take the court at this year’s tournament.
It means come the week of March 20, the 36-year-old will drop out of the top 10 for the first time since April 2005 when he was just 18 years of age.
It will end a remarkable streak of 912 weeks in the top 10.
That’s well ahead of the next best, Jimmy Connors, who spent 788 weeks in the top 10 between 1973 and 1988.
Nadal’s long-time rival Roger Federer spent 734 consecutive weeks in the top 10 between 2002 and 2016 to place third.
Serbian champion Novak Djokovic, who drew level with Nadal on 22 grand slam titles after winning the Australian Open this year, is in sixth place with a 555-week streak.
However, Nadal looks on track to return in time for the clay court season, which means he can set his sights on Federer’s overall record of 968 weeks in the top 10.
“I am sad that I won’t be able to compete at Indian Wells nor Miami. Very sad not to be there,” Nadal said on his Twitter account this week.
“I’ll miss all my US fans but I hope to see them later this year during the summer swing.”
Meanwhile, Djokovic has stayed on course for his third title of 2023 by powering into the semi-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships with a 6-3 7-5 win over Hubert Hurkacz.
But he next faces a major obstacle in the last-four with a blockbuster clash against Daniil Medvedev, who’s on an equally brilliant roll.
The 35-year-old Djokovic, unbeaten in 2023, won in Adelaide before sealing his 22nd grand slam at the Australian Open while managing a hamstring injury and has hit top form after a slow start in Dubai on his return to the tour.
He’s now won 15 straight matches this year, as well as five at the end of last year en route to his ATP Finals triumph, taking his unbeaten run to 20.
Having breezed through the first set on the back of a single break on Thursday, Djokovic found the going a bit tougher in the next as the big-serving Hurkacz raised his game in search of a first win over the world No.1 in their fifth meeting.
After a crucial hold from 0-30 down to draw level at 5-5, Djokovic grabbed another break to heap the pressure on Hurkacz and the five-times champion closed out the match on serve.
“It was a challenging match as it always is against Hubert,” Djokovic said. “I think he’s got one of the best serves in the game. In the second set, until the 11th game I didn’t have too many chances against his serve.
“Fortunately for me, I also found the rhythm on my serve… one or two points can decide the winner in matches like these.
“I’m really glad with the way I played under pressure.”
Up next for Djokovic is former world no.1 Medvedev, who later beat Borna Coric 6-3 6-2.
Remarkably, the Russian, who is aiming for a third straight tournament win in successive weeks after triumphs in Rotterdam and Doha, won the final 21 points of the match.
“To win 21 points in a row, I don’t know if that’s my personal record on the ATP Tour,” Medvedev said.
“I’m playing good right now, but when you play Novak, Novak is always the favourite.”
– with AAP