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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Rafael Nadal aims for a desert comeback. 

The king of clay is doubtful of a Doha return.

More: Richard Evans Q&A

In a new interview with television network La Sexta, Nadal expressed doubt he'll be ready to return for next week's Qatar ExxonMobil Open.

“It’s going to be very tight for Doha. I’ve had some discomfort these past few weeks and I’m a bit on the limit,” Nadal told La Sexta television in a new interview telecast today. “At this point, every blow I take, every injury, is a setback not only in tennis and physically, but also mentally.”

Instead of launching his comeback in the Doha desert, Nadal is confident of making his return at next month's BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.


A post shared by Rafa Nadal (@rafaelnadal)

The season's first Masters 1000 tournament is set for March 6-17th at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Nadal is a three-time indian Wells champion, who defeated Juan Martin del Potro in the 2013 final to capture his third Palm Springs championship.

Will this be Nadal's farewell to Indian Wells?

The two-time Olympic gold-medal champion, who knocked off Nick Kyrgios and Carlos Alcaraz en route to the 2022 Indian Wells final where he fell to Taylor Fritz, suggests this may well be his final time to shine in Tennis Paradise.

“I am 100 percent confident of being in Indian Wells, it’s a very special tournament for me," Nadal told La Sexta television. "I don’t know if it’s going to be the last time I play in it, so I would like to be in Indian Wells, for sure."

Though Nadal hoped to play the Qatar Open, he says it will be a "last minute" decision on Doha.

“I would love to be in Doha, what I know is that it’s cutting it fine," Nadal said. "I see the decision for Doha more at the last minute. I will travel to Indian Wells for sure if there is nothing wrong,”

The 37-year-old Spanish superstar impressed in his Brisbane comeback last month until suffering a muscle tear in his hip.

In just his third match back from June hip surgery, Nadal left the court for treatment of his hip returning to complete a 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-3 loss to inspired Aussie Jordan Thompson at the Brisbane International.

Afterward, Nadal shared he suffered a microtear in his muscle that forced him to withdraw from the Australian Open.

“I have worked very hard during the year for this comeback and as I always mentioned my goal is to be at my best level in 3 months," Nadal said in announcing his AO exit. "Within the sad news for me for not being able to play in front of the amazing Melbourne crowds, this is not very bad news and we all remain positive with the evolution for the season.

"I really wanted to play here in Australia and I have had the chance to play a few matches that made me very happy and positive.”

An Indian Wells comeback makes sense due to Nadal's schedule.

The king of clay is scheduled to play a Sin City exhibition against Carlos Alcaraz next month.


A post shared by Rafa Nadal (@rafaelnadal)

World No. 2 Alcaraz will face 22-time Grand Slam champion Nadal in The Netflix Slam, an exhibition match set for Sunday, March 3rd at noon inside Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

This exhibition event will stream as a duaI broadcast for English and Spanish speaking markets. The pair were initially slated to face off in Vegas last March, but Nadal's hip injury forced him out of that 2023 exhibition event.

Photo credit: Andy Cheung/Getty