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Will Nadal Play Indian Wells? Even He's Not Sure.

Though he won Sao Paulo this weekend, Rafael Nadal seemed unsure if he would compete on the hard courts of Indian Wells coming up next month.

By Erik Gudris

Rafael Nadal (February 18th, 2013) -- Though his many fans are celebrating his return to the winner's circle yesterday on the clay courts of Sao Paulo, Rafael Nadal himself issued a word of caution about his possible return to hard courts later next month.

Nadal defeated David Nalbandian in yesterday's Brasil Open finals to win his first title since Roland Garros last year. It capped off an uneven week from the former No. 1 that sometimes saw Nadal play masterful tennis while other times looking unsure and even passive.

Nadal's tendency to play many of his return games from well behind the baseline elicited the most concern from those watching all week. But despite his run to the title, Nadal admitted he needs more matches and more time to truly get back to the level he is known for.

When speaking to reporters afterwards, Nadal said that his focus is on his upcoming event at Acapulco next week. But though he is scheduled to play at Indian Wells in March -- an event that would be his first hard court tournament -- Nadal didn't sound 100% committed to playing there just yet.

"I am thinking of Acapulco and nothing else," Nadal said. "I am not in a position to think too far ahead. I will just take it day by day and week by week. Let's see how my knee feels in Acapulco and after we finish this clay season. We'll see how things have passed at these three tournaments and decide if we are prepared to play Indian Wells."

Nadal admitted throughout his week in Sao Paulo that his knee does still give him pain  -- a reason that forced him out of the doubles event with Nalbandian. But while protecting his knee is Nadal's main priority, the other factor that might weigh into his decision to skip Indian Wells is if he feels he is really ready for "primetime" -- in other words, facing the elite tier of players who will be there.

During his first few events this season, Nadal has only faced so far one top 30 player in Jeremy Chardy back at Vina Del Mar. Though he won that encounter easily as well as yesterday against a No. 78 ranked but always tricky Nalbandian, even Nadal knows he will have to raise his level much higher against even top 20 opponents that he might face at Indian Wells and/or Miami the week after.

Though he will feel the pressure to appear at Indian Wells, not just for the sake of tournament organizers, but also in the hopes of defending his semifinal points there in order to keep himself in touch with the current top four, Nadal will have to ultimately decide if its worth it or not. If the ultimate goal is to get himself ready to defend Roland Garros, then perhaps skipping Indian Wells, Miami or both might be the most sensible option, especially to protect his tender knee.

Nadal is taking a wait and see approach and that is for the best. But he may not make up his mind until after Acapulco ends -- keeping tennis fans and those at Indian Wells hopeful but uncertain on what the Spanish superstar's next move will be.

Should Nadal skip Indian Wells? Let us know in the comments.

(Photo Credit: Fernando Borges/Terra)

 

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