Rafael Nadal set to miss Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships with hip injury

Spaniard ruled out for up to two months after getting injured during Australian Open first-round defeat

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Rafael Nadal has been sidelined for six to eight weeks due to a hip flexor injury he suffered during his second-round defeat at the Australian Open, ruling him out of next month's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Nadal's Australian Open title defence ended on Wednesday as he slumped to a 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 defeat to Mackenzie McDonald at Melbourne Park.

The 36-year-old had an MRI scan on his left leg in Melbourne on Thursday, which revealed a Grade 2 injury in the main hip flexor.

"He will be resting the next days once back in Spain and will start with anti-inflammatory physiotherapy," Nadal's team said in a statement on Thursday.

"The normal time estimated for a complete recuperation is between six and eight weeks."

That timeline will almost certainly rule Nadal out of next month's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. The ATP section of the 2023 tennis championships runs from February 27 to March 5.

"The news of Rafa Nadal’s injury at the Australian Open is most unfortunate for him in his pursuit of a record 23rd Grand Slam title,” said Salah Tahlak, tournament director of the Dubai tournament, in a statement.

“We wish him all the best for a rapid return to full health and fitness, his wellbeing is the priority. We are in contact with Rafa’s team and will be monitoring the situation in the coming days and weeks.”

Nadal was this month named as part of a star-studded line-up in Dubai that also includes 21-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic.

Nadal, winner of a men's record 22 Grand Slams, arrived in Melbourne with only one win to his name since last year's US Open after rib, abdomen and foot injuries kept him off court for much of the second half of last season.

Wednesday's loss to McDonald was the Spaniard's earliest exit from a major in seven years and will lead to more questions about his fitness levels and long-term prospects after recurring injury problems.

"I can't come here and lie and say life is fantastic and that I'm staying positive. Not now, but tomorrow starts another day, now it's a tough moment, a tough day. You need to accept that, and keep going," Nadal had said after his latest injury.

"In the end, I can't complain about my life at all. In terms of sport and injuries and tough moments, that's another one. I can't say that I'm not destroyed mentally at this time because I would be lying."

Nadal said he had had the problem for "a couple of days" but did not know what the issue was.

"I don't know what's going on, if it's muscle, if it's joint," the deflated Spaniard told reporters.

"I have history in the hip that I had issues. I had to do treatments in the past, address a little. Was not this amount of problem. Now I feel I cannot move."

Updated: January 19, 2023, 1:47 PM