Rafael Nadal has said he will be out for “four to six weeks” after confirming that the breathing difficulties he suffered in Sunday’s Indian Wells final defeat to Taylor Fritz were caused by a stress fracture in one of his ribs.

Nadal experienced pain when breathing and dizziness during the final as his winning start to the season came to an end at 20 matches. The world No. 3 will now miss the start of the clay court season in what is a blow to his French Open preparations ahead of the second major of the year in late May.

The 35-year-old, who won a record 21st grand slam title at the Australian Open in January, will miss tournaments in Barcelona and Monte Carlo and is also a major doubt for the Madrid Open at the end of April.

Nadal received medical treatment after Fritz won the opening set in Indian Wells but played on through the pain before losing the second set on a tiebreak. “It’s a kind of pain that limits me a lot,” Nadal said of the injury. “It’s not only about pain, I don’t feel very well because it affects my breathing.”

The Spaniard said afterwards that he would be returning home to examine the extent of the injury and confirmed in a post on Twitter on Tuesday: “As it turns out, I have a stress fracture in one of my ribs and will be out for 4-6 weeks. This is not good news and I did not expect this. I am sunk and sad because after the start of the season I have had such a good time.

“I reached a very important part of the year with very good feelings and good results. But hey, I’ve always had that fighting and overcoming spirit and what I will do is be patient and work hard after my recovery. Once again thank everyone for the support.”

Nadal, who came from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final, had also won tournaments in Melbourne and Acapulco before reaching the final in Indian Wells last week.

He missed several months of the end of last season, including the Olympics and US Open tournaments, due to a foot injury which he revealed on his way to winning the Australian Open had left him on the brink of retirement.

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