Rafael Nadal exits world top 10 for first time since 2005 amid hip flexor recovery

Jan 18, 2023; Melbourne, VICTORIA, Australia; Rafael Nadal after his second round match against Mackenzie Mcdonald on day three of the 2023 Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park. Mandatory Credit: Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports
Fans of Rafael Nadal are seeing an 18-year streak end. (Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports)

Spanish tennis superstar Rafael Nadal has officially dropped out of the Association of Tennis Professionals' world top-10 rankings for the first time in 18 years, Racquet Magazine's Ben Rothenberg noted Monday.

Until this week, Nadal had been in the top 10 for 912 consecutive weeks. In 2020, he set the men's record for a top-10 streak when he overtook Jimmy Connors' previous record of 789 weeks. Martina Navratilova is the only tennis player to best Nadal's record, sitting at the top of the women's game for a spectacular 1,000 weeks.

Nadal, 36, has not fallen outside the top 10 since he entered in 2005 after a win at the Barcelona Open.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion has not competed in a tennis match since the Australian Open in January. Then seeded No. 1, he sustained and played through a Grade 2 left hip flexor injury during a second-round loss to American Mackenzie McDonald. Nadal's team, including his wife, were visibly devastated when they realized he was hurt. He later announced he would be recovering for six-to-eight weeks.

As his recovery continues, Nadal was forced to miss Indian Wells last week and fell to a world ranking of 13.

It seems unwise to not expect Nadal to return to the world top 10 once he's back. His consistency throughout wrist and foot injuries over more than 20 years contends that he can continue to play at an elite level. It's a unique trait of his, as no other player listed in the top 20 from 2005 is still playing tennis professionally today.

According to Spanish Tennis publication Punto De Break, Barcelona Open director and former Spanish tennis player David Ferrer told reporters that Nadal is practicing "five days a week," with hopes of returning to the court next month at Monte Carlo.

Meanwhile, fellow Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz recently won his way back into the world rankings' No. 1 spot with a dominant showing in the Indian Wells final. Despite Hawk Eye audio system and microphone failure in the fourth game of the match, which caused the umpire to yell out every unclear out point, the 19-year-old beat Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-2 in 70 minutes.

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