Rafael Nadal withdrew from Indian Wells on Wednesday on the eve of his first-round match, saying he is “not ready to play at the highest level”.

The Spaniard, 37, returned to competition in Brisbane in January after almost a year sidelined with a hip flexor injury, but had to miss the Australian Open with another muscle tear.

He lost to Carlos Alcaraz in an exhibition event in Las Vegas on Sunday but looked poised to try to win a fourth title in the California desert before pulling out ahead of his match against Canadian Milos Raonic.

“It is with great sadness that I have to withdraw from this amazing tournament,” the 22-time Grand Slam champion said in a statement.

“Everyone knows how much I love this place and how much I love to play here at Indian Wells.

“Thats also one of the reasons why I came very early to the desert to practice and try to get ready.

“I have been working hard and practicing and you all know I took a test this weekend but I dont find myself ready to play at the highest level at such an important event.

“It is not an easy decision, its a tough one as a matter of fact but I cant lie to myself and lie to the thousands of fans. I will miss you all and I am sure the tournament will be a great success.”

Nadal will be replaced by lucky loser Sumit Nagal, who will be the first Indian in the main draw of an ATP Masters 1000 event since Prajnesh Gunneswaran at Miami in 2019.

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Carlos Alcaraz and RNadal took part in the inaugural Netflix Slam exhibition match in Las Vegas

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