Rafael Nadal explains Miami Open decision as he looks to extend Slam record at French Open

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Rafael Nadal has explained his decision to withdraw from the Miami Open while in the middle of his Indian Wells campaign. The world No 4 narrowly avoided defeat to reach the last 16 at the BNP Paribas Open and will not be competing again until the clay season when his run in the desert ends. He became the first man to win a record 21st Major at the Australian Open and will now look to extend his lead to 22 at his most successful Grand Slam, the French Open.

Nadal is having a career-best start to the season, winning three of the tournaments he has completed and going unbeaten with 17-0 record for the year so far. After winning titles in Melbourne, the Australian Open and Acapulco, he is now set to take some time out after his current tournament in Indian Wells.

The Spaniard was withdrawn from the entry list for the Miami Open, kicking off on March 23, and will be out of action between the eventual end of his run at the BNP Paribas Open and the clay-court season. He has now explained the decision to skip Miami where he hasn’t played since losing the 2017 final to Roger Federer.

“I didn’t play Miami for the last couple of years. I am almost 36. I played much more than what I expected at the beginning of the season,” the 35-year-old said after beating Dan Evans on Monday. He ended his 2021 season early with a foot injury and has won every match since returning from the six-month layoff this year but is now hoping to keep his foot in check with an extended rest period.

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Explaining why the Miami Open could throw up problems for his body, the 21-time Grand Slam champion continued: “For my body, it is not good to have quick transitions from different surfaces. Clay to hard — well, hard to clay. If I play Miami, I will not have time to rest and not time to make a swift transition to the clay.”

Known as the ‘King of Clay’, Nadal will also be eyeing his most successful Grand Slam at the French Open, where he is a 13-time champion. After losing to Novak Djokovic in last year’s semi final – one of his last matches before taking time out with injury – Nadal will be keen to get another Roland Garros title under his belt to extend his record of men’s singles Grand Slam trophies to 22.

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“I need to push since the beginning very hard, so that’s dangerous for my foot, for my knees,” he added. “I need to make that transitions step by step. I cannot make drastic changes like I did in the past, so that’s why I decided to stop after here and to have, like, three weeks before the clay-court season start for me.”

Nadal will next face Reilly Opelka in the last 16 at the BNP Paribas Open after the towering 6’11 American came from a set down to beat 13th seed Denis Shapovalov. The pair have faced off once before at last year’s Rome Masters where the Spaniard won 6-4 6-4.

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