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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, March 16, 2019

 
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Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from today's Indian Wells semifinal as well as next week's Miami Open due to a right knee injury.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

Episode 39 of the iconic Roger vs. Rafa rivalry is cancelled.

Second-seeded Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from today's scheduled Indian Wells semifinal against Roger Federer due to a right knee injury, pulling the plug on the first meeting between the arch rivals in 17 months.

More: Nadal's Knee is the Issue

It is the first time in the famed Fedal history that began at the 2004 Miami Open that either champion conceded a walkover.

The 32-year-old Spaniard, who took a medical timeout for treatment of right knee tendonitis in his quarterfinal conquest of Karen Khachanov yesterday, will also miss next week's Miami Open.

"As I said yesterday after the match, I felt that something happened in the knee and was not the moment to talk about that because remain 24 hours before the semifinal, and I wanted to try my best to be competitive today," a grim Nadal told the media in Indian Wells. "I warm up today in the morning, and I felt that my knee was not enough good to compete at the level that I need to compete, to play semifinals match of this event."

The three-time Indian Wells champion said he hopes to return at next month's Monte Carlo Masters. 

"For me is not about only today. It's about what means for me to have to pull out in a tournament that I love so much like this one, and in the semifinals after playing well during the whole tournament," Nadal said. "You can imagine that I can't be happy. So that's all, yeah. Sometimes is tough and can be frustrating for me sometimes personally to go through all this stuff."

The walkover sends five-time champion Federer into tomorrow's final. Federer, who had warmed up and was anticipating playing, told ESPN's Mary Joe Fernandez that Nadal texted him with news of his withdrawal.

Continuing his quest for a record sixth Indian Wells crown, Federer will face either 2016 finalist Milos Raonic or 2018 Roland Garros runner-up Dominic Thiem in the final.

The 33-time Masters champion Nadal was plagued by knee, hip and abdominal issues last season.

Nadal played just nine tournaments in 2018, completing seven, and says he's considering streamlining his schedule to try to minimize the pain of his cranky knee.  

"I need to do the things the best way possible to avoid years, like last year have been a very tough year for me," Nadal said. "I suffered a lot in terms of injuries. So I want to try to suffer less, because mentally is tough to play only nine events per year and finish only seven.

"So that have been a tough one. If you play nine events because you only want to play nine events, good. But if you play nine events because you have been under a lot of troubles, then the situation is different."

The 17-time Grand Slam champion said his cranky right knee has caused chronic stress and some suffering for years.

The condition can fluctuate: Sometimes, he plays in pain and sometimes the pain is not manageable. 

"Some moments are better; some moments are worse. Always stays there," Nadal said. "And always remind me, limit me to practice less the way that I want and to play less than I want. But it's not the moment to complain much.

"With all this stuff, I still where I am today. And the week have been positive until yesterday. So I feel myself competitive when I am healthy, and my goal is to be healthy as many weeks as possible to keep playing and at the highest level possible and for the most important things.

"So my goal don't change. And even if sometimes is tough for me, yeah, to accept all these things that I am going through during all my career, yeah, sometimes I feel sad because I feel always in disadvantage comparing with all my opponents in terms of preparation and in terms of practice and sometimes under competition."

The withdrawal was a major buzz kill for Indian Wells, which is where Federer and Nadal first met—in doubles—15 years ago and two weeks before they first faced off in singles at the 2004 Miami Open.

The walkover may have hit some fans hard too: ESPN's Chris Fowler reports ticket scalpers were receiving more than $300 for an upper-deck seat for today's semifinals.


 

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