Nadal’s 18-year streak could be ended by three rivals amid injury woes

Rafael Nadal could leave the top 10 for the first time since he made his debut in the elite group of the rankings 18 years ago as the Spaniard continues to remain sidelined by an injury he picked up in Australia. Three players have the chance to end the Spaniard’s remarkable streak in the top 10 this week during his absence from the Dubai Championships.

Nadal’s top 10 ranking is under threat this week after the 36-year-old was forced to pull out of the Dubai Championships with the leg injury he picked up during his Australian Open second-round loss. With two ATP 500 events taking place this week in both Dubai and Acapulco, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Holger Rune and Hubert Hurkacz can all send the Spaniard out of the top group come Monday.

The 36-year-old’s fate rests in the hands of three of his young rivals, as there are several scenarios that could see him pushed out of the top 10 for the first time since he made his debut on April 18 2005. Fresh off the back of a title win in Marseille, Hurkacz would push Nadal out by reaching the final of Dubai this week or lifting the title.

Meanwhile Auger-Aliassime – who is coached by Nadal’s own uncle Toni – can spur on the Spaniard’s demise if he reaches the quarter-final in Dubai. With current world No 10 Rune playing in Acapulco this week, a semi-final run from the Dane will also see Nadal exit the top group of the rankings.

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Currently sitting at No 8 in the world, Nadal was set to play the Dubai Championships for the first time in 15 years after opting to play in Acapulco ever since. And as last year’s champion in Mexico, he has lost all 500 ranking points he earned at the tournament 12 months ago.

The 22-time Grand Slam winner has not given an update on his injury in more than a month. After crashing out of the Australian Open, Nadal confirmed that he underwent an MRI scan which showed a “grade 2 lesion in the Iliacus Psoas of his left leg” and needed six to eight weeks to recover.

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Seven days later on January 26 he tweeted: “Today I have been at the Tecknon Tennis Clinic in Barcelona where they have carried out some tests on me. The Melbourne results are confirmed and the deadlines remain the same. Established the treatments to follow and in 3 weeks they will perform new tests to see the evolution.”

But Nadal has not provided an update since, and it remains to be seen whether he competes in Indian Wells and Miami next month or waits for the start of the clay season in April to make his return. The 36-year-old has already withdrawn from a blockbuster exhibition match he was meant to face Carlos Alcaraz in on March 5 in Las Vegas, just days before Indian Wells begins.

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