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On tour last year?  “Right now it's going in that direction.”

On tour last year? “Right now it's going in that direction.”

Rafael Nadal lost a tennis bid to Carlos Alcaraz in Las Vegas on Monday night by scores of 6:3, 4:6 and 12:14 in the tie-break of the match. Not many duels between the two best Spanish players will be watched on the ATP Tour due to Nadal approaching the end of his career. “It's good that as a player I don't have to compete with him so much anymore,” the 37-year-old said afterwards. Nadal returns this week to the Indian Wells tournament, where Alcaraz also plays.

Nadal stressed that the future of Spanish tennis is in very safe hands with Alcaraz. “As a fan, I will enjoy it and hopefully I will be able to watch it for many years to come,” the veteran said. In Spain, you have to be very lucky to have such an up-and-coming player. “He is an incredible player. He is only 20 years old and has already won two Grand Slam tournaments and many other important tournaments,” Nadal said in his praise.

Alcaraz won the US Open in 2022 and Wimbledon in 2023, in addition to ten other wins at non-major tournaments. In the world rankings, only Serbian Novak Djokovic is better than the Spaniard. Like Nadal, Alcaraz was already at the top of the world rankings. Nadal will not return there, and after years of suffering from injuries, he is currently only No. 652 in the world. Since his body is no longer working the way he wants, 2024 will likely be his last year on the Tour. These days, the 22-time Grand Slam champion confirmed: “At the moment things are moving in this direction.”

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Most recently, Nadal was forced to take a break for almost a year due to a complex hip injury. He only returned to the Australian tour in January but was suspended due to injury following the Brisbane Championship after two wins. The result: no Australian Open, instead more rest and rehab. The left-handed player, who was also forced to cancel the tournament in Doha, said: “Unfortunately, I was not able to complete the program I had planned.”

But now he wants to train for matches again at the Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells. Because the clay court season starting in April is what Nadal is still struggling with. The former world number one said: “Everything that remains inside me, I want to bring it out during the clay court season.” His last big goals were the French Open and the Olympics, both held in his tennis living room at Roland Garros. Court Philippe Chatrier is where Nadal celebrated his greatest successes and where he became a legend.

He has won the title 14 times in Paris, and the final win there means everything to him. But it is still questionable whether Nadal will really be able to win five sets for two weeks again. “I would like to say goodbye when I feel good, when I am competitive and having fun on the court,” Nadal said in Las Vegas. Performing there in front of nearly 10,000 spectators made him confident. Things went “better than expected” against Alcaraz. Now the main goal in Indian Wells is to stay injury free.

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The opponent is still unknown

The three-time Indian Wells champion will make his debut on Thursday. Against whom it is not yet clear. It is also a return for Alcaraz, who suffered an ankle injury during their first-round match in Rio de Janeiro on February 20.