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Rafael Nadal withdrew from the upcoming hard-court tournament in Montreal on Friday because of the abdominal injury that caused him to pull out of Wimbledon ahead of the semifinals.

The Spaniard had been 19-0 in Grand Slam matches this year when he decided the injury was too much at Wimbledon. He won the Australian Open and the French Open to increase his major total to a men’s record 22 – one more than Novak Djokovic and two more than Roger Federer.

Nadal is a five-time champion in Montreal.

“I have been practicing for a while now without serving and started with serves four days ago. Everything has been going well. However, yesterday, after my normal practice, I felt a slight bother on my abdominal and today it was still there,” Nadal said in a statement. “After speaking with my doctor, we prefer to take things in a conservative way and give a few more days before starting to compete.”

Rafael Nadal

American player Mackenzie McDonald will replace Nadal in the draw.

Djokovic withdrew from the Montreal tournament on Thursday because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and is therefore not allowed to enter Canada.

After six weeks away, Rafael Nadal made an emphatic return to the ATP Tour Wednesday at the Mutua Madrid Open, moving past Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic 6-1, 7-6(4) to reach the third round.

The Spaniard last competed in March, when American Taylor Fritz ended his perfect start to the season in the Indian Wells final. However, in a rain-disrupted clash against Kecmanovic, the World No. 4 played as if he had never been away, hitting with his explosive power as he recovered from failing to serve out the match at 6-5 in the second set to advance after one hour and 55 minutes.

“Every comeback is different. We had to put all circumstances together to analyse every single comeback, and today has been a very important match for me, playing at home on clay against a player that has been playing well for the past couple of months,” Nadal said in his post-match press conference.

“So [if you] put everything together [it is] a very tough first round,” Nadal added. “I think I managed it very well. I played at a good level, so [I am] very pleased with the victory. I just try to stay humble to know things [are] not going to be perfect here and just moving forward with the right determination, to accept that I need to fight, I need to stay positive. I need to play with the right attitude, and take every single match that I’m able to win like a present to play another time here.”

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal is aiming to win his sixth title on home soil in Madrid this week, having last triumphed at the clay-court event in 2017. If he can accomplish the feat, he will move level with Novak Djokovic on a record 37 ATP Masters 1000 crowns

The 35-year-old has improved to 21-1 on the season and moved to 2-0 in his ATP Head2Head series against Kecmanovic. Earlier this year, Nadal captured a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

The third seed will next meet Marrakech champion David Goffin after the Belgian qualifier defeated Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp 6-4, 6-2.

In an entertaining match in front of a packed crowd, Nadal flew out of the blocks as he pulled the Serbian around the court with his heavy topspin. The World No. 4 did not face a break point in the first set as he caused Kecmanovic problems with his accuracy and depth to lead after 36 minutes.

Play was then halted at the start of the second due to rain, but resumed shortly after when the roof was closed on Manolo Santana Stadium. The interruption did little to halt Nadal’s rhythm, though, as he continued to play with relentless intensity. Nadal established further control when he broke to lead 6-5 in the second set, but failed to serve out the match, with Kecmanovic finding deep returns. However, the Spaniard quickly regained his focus in the tie-break to triumph.

Alongside his penetrating attack, the Spaniard was defensively strong. He ‘stole’ 49 per cent of points in the match by hanging in rallies deep behind the baseline.

Kecmanovic is currently at a career-high No. 32 in the ATP Rankings having enjoyed a career-best start to the season. The 22-year-old has earned 23 tour-level wins, reaching the quarter-finals in Indian Wells and Miami.

Rafael Nadal announced he would be unable to play at the Miami Open a day after he competed in the final of the BNP Paribas Open when he was beaten by Taylor Fritz due to a rib injury he picked up during his semi final tie with Carlos Alcaraz, and tennis legend Mats Wilander believes he pushed his body too much.

The Australian Open champion is now out of action for four to six weeks and it could be a doubt whether he’ll be ready and available for the French Open in May.

Wilander believes Nadal should have taken a month break after he won the Mexican Open but he also conceded that’s not the 21 time Grand Slam winner’s style.

Hola todos, quería anunciaros que he vuelto a España y fui enseguida a visitar a mi equipo médico para hacerme las pruebas tras la final de Indian Wells que jugué con molestias.

— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) March 22, 2022

“In a perfect world I would have thought that after he won the tournament in Acapulco, Mexico playing as well as he did, beating Medvedev again in two sets, beating Cameron Norrie in the finals in two sets, I was 100% sure that he was not going to go and play in Indian Wells or Miami,” the 57-year-old told Eurosport.

“I thought that he would take a month off from tournaments and then go to his normal schedule which is play the clay courts, I think maybe he pushed his body a little bit too much.

Rafael Nadal

“But with Rafa Nadal he loves tennis and competing so much that when he’s feeling good he’s going to go out there and he’s going to run as hard as he can.”

The 13 time French Open winner is the only player in history to have won 21 Grand Slam titles, but the road to success hasn’t been easy given Nadal’s style is to carry on playing until he breaks.

“People are saying Rafa Nadal will not last a long time because of injuries, I’ve always said kind of the opposite,” the three time Australian Open champion added.

“Rafa Nadal will last until he gets injured and then he will go home and he will do rehab and then he will play again and he will push himself so hard physically and mentally and emotionally that he will get injured again and then he will go home, he will rehab and he will start again.

“This is his career and it’s not easy, he keeps saying that himself but he’s had a pretty decent career and he’s the best player of all time on paper for the men so I think that maybe what he’s done is actually better than if you play for 18 years in a row and never take a break.”

Nadal is set to miss out on the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open but he could return for the Madrid Open which gets underway from May 2.