Rafael Nadal is playing in Acapulco, Mexico, at a clay-court event this week. (Ricardo Bufolin/Getty Images)
Spanish newspaper Marca reports that Rafael Nadal has already decided to withdraw from the back-to-back hard-court ATP Masters 1000 events next month in Indian Wells, Calif., and Miami to protect his battered knees. It's surprising news considering Nadal's comments a week ago that he would wait until after playing a tournament this week in Acapulco, Mexico, to firm up his plans.
But is it true? Nadal's camp denies the report. His press agent, Benito Perez-Barbadillo Jerez, tweeted this morning that the Marca story was based on speculation and retweeted this tweet from Neil Harman, chief tennis correspondent for The London Times.
Another Spanish reporter tweeted that Nadal's uncle and coach, Toni, disavowed any reports that his nephew has made a decision.
Matt Cronin reports that Nadal's team says he intends to play.
Nadal's withdrawal from Miami would come as no major surprise. He's never won that tournament and hasn't played particularly well there. And much like Roger Federer, who has already confirmed he'll skip Miami, his recent split from IMG gives him even less incentive to play the IMG-owned event.
Indian Wells is a different matter. Nadal is a two-time champion, and he enjoys the quiet and peaceful environment in California. A tournament spokesperson told SI.com that Nadal's camp has not contacted Indian Wells about withdrawing and that its understanding is that he intends to play. Nadal is also still confirmed for the BNP Paribas Showdown, a March 4 exhibition at Madison Square Garden in New York, where he'll play Juan Martin del Potro.
If the Marca report is true, it would make Acapulco Nadal's last tournament until mid-April, when he is expected to resume his typical European clay-court schedule and play play Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome before heading to his beloved French Open. A withdrawal from the hard-court Masters would also open the door for No. 6 Tomas Berdych and No. 7 Del Potro to overtake No. 5 Nadal in the rankings. Nadal has a 1,200-point cushion on both with all three playing an ATP 500 this week. Pulling out of both tournaments would cost Nadal 720 points, meaning Berdych or Del Potro could push past the Spaniard with deep runs.