Rafael Nadal is expected to be sidelined for between six and eight weeks with the injury he suffered at the Australian Open on Wednesday.
The Spaniard’s reign as champion at Melbourne Park ended prematurely in the second round with defeat by American Mackenzie McDonald.
Nadal pulled up suddenly late in the second set and clutched at his left hip. He opted to finish the match after an off-court medical timeout but his movement was severely hampered.
The 36-year-old underwent a scan in Melbourne on Thursday morning that showed a grade two tear of his iliopsoas muscle.
An update from Nadal’s team said he would return to Spain for a period of rest and treatment, with the normal recovery time for the injury from six to eight weeks.
If that timeframe proves correct, Nadal could also miss the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells at the start of March but should be recovered in time for his favourite European clay-court swing.
He cut a disconsolate figure following the match as he contemplated another period on the sidelines but the good news is it is not a more serious injury.
Speaking on Wednesday, Nadal said: “If I have to spend a long time again, then it’s super difficult in the end to be in rhythm and to be competitive and to be ready to fight for the things that I really want to fight for. Let’s see how the injury is, and then let’s see how I can manage to follow the calendar.”
The Spaniard had spoken with confidence ahead of the tournament about the direction in which his tennis was heading and said he still has the desire to put in the hard work necessary to win the biggest titles.
Former world number one Boris Becker, though, believes the end is nigh, telling Eurosport: “Yesterday was already the first step towards his retirement.
“An injury like that is hard and at this age it takes even longer to get back into shape. I hope and pray that he will get well soon and that we will see him looking fresh again in Paris at the latest. But I think his days are numbered.”