Rafa Nadal gunning for Novak Djokovic record as he aims to capatilise on Indian Wells ban

Djokovic ‘cleared out of the way’ for Nadal says host

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Rafael Nadal has already arrived in Indian Wells ahead of the first Masters 1000 tournament of the year. The Spaniard is yet to lose any matches or tournaments he has entered this year, and is gunning to tie Novak Djokovic’s record of 37 Masters titles in the Serb’s absence. The world No 2 is unable to compete due to his unvaccinated status.

Nadal is competing in Indian Wells for the first time since he was forced to withdraw injured ahead of his semi-final with Roger Federer in 2019.

The world No 4 is enjoying is best-ever start to a season, winning all 15 of the matches he has played to smash his previous record of an 11-0 start to the season in 2014.

And he has managed to do so off the back of a six-month injury layoff, winning three successive titles and counting since his comeback.

Among those is his second Australian Open crown, 13 years on from the first, which made Nadal the first male player in history to win a record 21st Grand Slam title, surpassing Djokovic and Federer on 20.

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He is now looking to close in on another of Djokovic’s records at the upcoming Indian Wells Masters.

The world No 2 holds a record 37 titles at Masters 1000 level, with Nadal just behind on 36.

Djokovic is unable to compete in Indian Wells and Miami this month with the United States requiring full vaccination for all people entering the country.

“As of today, no. I can’t go, can’t enter United States. As of today I’m not able to play. But let’s see what happens. I mean, maybe things change in the next few weeks,” the five-time Indian Wells champion said last week in Dubai.

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And the Spaniard already looks ready to steal his rival’s record, having already arrived in Indian Wells to begin practicing a week before the tournament begins.

Sharing some snaps from the Californian desert on his Instagram account, the recent Mexico Open champion wrote: “Here we are back at this amazing part of the world. What a place, what a tournament. #indianwells

“Looking forward to seeing again my US fans of the west coast!”

He also posted some footage from his practice session on his story, which showed the three-time former champion firing forehands down the court.

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A post shared by Rafa Nadal (@rafaelnadal)

On his way to winning the title in Acapulco last week, Nadal admitted he was playing without limitations for the first time in 18 months.

“For me the most important thing, whether it hurts or not, is that I can play without limitations and that’s what I couldn’t do last year and a half.

“In many moments I played with a lot of pain and problems. Right now I feel liberated. It’s incredible energy and I’m enjoying it.”

The BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells begin next Wednesday with the WTA main draw, while the ATP main draw begins on Thursday.

The Miami Open then begins on March 21, and if Nadal can do the ‘Sunshine Double’ he will break Djokovic’s record with 38 Masters 1000 titles.

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