Rafael Nadal GOAT verdict given in Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer Indian Wells absence

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

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Rafael Nadal has been given a boost in the GOAT debate by world No 7 Andrey Rublev. The 24-year-old is one of four men contesting the Indian Wells semi-finals and is in the opposite half of the draw to the Spanaird. Nadal overtook Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic by winning a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and is now on a 19-0 match-winning streak for the season.

Nadal has started the season with a career-best streak, winning all 19 matches he has played so far. His run of victories led him to titles in Melbourne, the Australian Open and Acapulco, and he now finds himself in the semi-finals of Indian Wells.

It comes off the back of a six-month injury layoff the Spaniard was forced to take at the back-end of 2021 after his chronic foot injury flared up, leading him to undergo a medical procedure. The world No 4 has since admitted that he didn’t know whetehr he’d be able to return to tennis as early as December but defied the odds to win a record-breaking 21st Major title at the end of January, surpassing the previous men’s singles record he shared with Federer and Nadal.

Off the back of his stunning start to 2022, fellow top-ten player Andrey Rublev has admitted he believes the Spaniard is the “best player”. Nadal has already dug himself out of losing positions this week in Indian Wells to find himself in the last four along with the 24-year-old.

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Speaking on Nadal’s start to the season he said: “I don’t know. Rafa is the best in history player. He can do anything. Sometimes is better just to sit down, to watch and enjoy.” The 35-year-old withdrew from Wimbledon and the Olympics last year over the foot problem, aiming to be back in time for the North Americn hard-court swing, but it was a short-lived comeback attempt as he shut down his season after two matches in Washington.

Rublev said the unpredictability of Nadal’s struggles over the last year showed he could do “anything” as he continued praising the 21-time Major champion. “We’ll see. Last year many people expect that he will play US Open. Suddenly he pull out. He finish the season,” he explained. “Now he came back, he win a Grand Slam, and he’s playing here, then he will play clay court season. With him you never know. But he can do anything.”

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Nadal has kept up his winning streak in the absence of his biggest rivals, Djokovic and Federer. The Serb was left unable to play Indian Wells and Miami due to his unvaccinated status, stopping him from entering the country.

Meanwhile, Federer continues to recover from a knee surgery after ending his own 2021 season weeks before Nadal did last year. The Swiss star shared his first video back on the practice court on Saturday after going under the knife for a third time back in August.

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