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Rafael Nadal appears to drop retirement hint after losing Indian Wells final to Fritz

Rafael Nadal has hinted that he will be on tour for at least a “couple of years” after losing the Indian Wells final. The world No 4 was on a 20-match unbeaten streak for the season before Taylor Fritz halted him 6-3 7-6(5) to win his maiden Masters 1000 title. Both players came into the championship match carrying injuries from their respective semi-finals.

Nadal had a career-best start to the season by winning his first 20 matches, extending across titles in Melbourne, Acapulco and a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. He was denied a 21st victory in a row and a fourth title for the year by Fritz, who battled through an ankle injury to defeat the world No 4 in just over two hours.

The 24-year-old had been in doubt to take to the court after picking up an ankle injury in his semi-final against Andrey Rublev but got off to a fast start by winning the first four games of the match as it was the Spaniard who was hampered by his own pectoral injury he suffered during his last-four match against Carlos Alcaraz. He left the court for physio treatment after the first set but managed to fight in the second before just losing it in the tiebreak.

Nadal’s 20-0 start to the season had already come off the back of a six-month injury layoff he took last year for a chronic left foot injury that left him doubting whether he’d be able to return to the tour as recently as December. But after his injury scare in the final, the 21-time Major champion sounded hopefully he could continue to compete for the next couple of years.

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“Well, I tried my best during the last two weeks. Today was not possible, I gave a good fight until the end I think so [I’m] happy for that,” he said in his post-match speech. “Have been a very, very emotional beginning of the season for me and have been a while since I have been able to play here – last year because of the injury, two years ago because of the pandemic.”

Sharing his hopes to keep returning to the Californian desert he continued: “i really enjoy it a lot every single day that I spend here in Indian Wells, and of course here in court. Thanks so much for your support here on court, you’re amazing. [I] always enjoy playing in front of you and hopefully I can keep coming for the next couple of years.”

The 35-year-old also admitted his start to the season had been a “dream” after his struggles with the left foot, having previously admitte he spent 18 months in pain.

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