Rafael Nadal withdrawal sparks Indian Wells ticket refund offer amid fan frustrations

Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal from Indian Wells has sparked action from tournament organisers, with disappointed tennis fans offered refunds on their expensive tickets.

The 37-year-old legend has endured a shocking start to what could be his final year on tour after suffering a muscle tear in January that ruled him out of the Australian Open.

He returned to the court in an exhibition event in Las Vegas on Sunday ahead of this week’s Masters 1000 event in California.

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Nadal and Indian Wells officials were so sure of his participation that, in a rare move, his first-round match was locked in as the Thursday night feature prior to the draw.

Daily tournament schedules are usually only set after the draw and all tickets are sold with no guarantees on who will play when or where.

Going against the grain with Nadal’s schedule allowed Indian Wells officials to advertise tickets more than one week in advance.

But they were forced to step in with the uncommon refund offer when he announced his latest setback.

“Patrons who have purchased individual evening session tickets to Stadium 1 for Thursday, March 7 — directly from the BNP Paribas Open — may contact the box office regarding a refund,” organisers said.

Crucially, however, the refund offer was not available to fans who purchased tickets from sources other than the tournament itself.

Nadal’s career is at a crossroads for a second straight year. Credit: AAP

Tournament director Tommy Haas expressed his disappointment and hoped it wasn’t the last they would see of Nadal.

“He is one of the all-time fan favorites here, and we hope to see him back in Indian Wells again in the future,” he said.

The Nadal situation was somewhat unusual in that he did not suffer a fresh injury before withdrawing.

“I don’t find myself ready to play at the highest level at such an important event,” he said in his announcement.

“It is not an easy decision, it’s a tough one as a matter of fact, but I can’t lie to myself and lie to the thousands of fans. I will miss you all.”

Fans declared Indian Wells’ refund offer was the right thing to do in the context of the tournament, owned by billionaire Larry Ellison, having promoted Nadal for the session.

Nadal was replaced by lucky loser Sumit Nagal for the first-round match against former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic.

Initial reports suggested there was a flood of people seeking to get their money back following the switch.

“I was on hold for over an hour this morning. When box office opened I was #269 in line, and when it got to 29th in line an automated message said the box office was now closed and they hung up. That isn’t right,” one fan wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

Another replied: “Me too!! Incredible.”

Nadal’s 2024 season was cruelled by a new injury in Brisbane. Credit: Tertius Pickard/AP

Refunds were a hot topic when Nadal’s withdrawal was first announced.

“I am very glad that Tommy Haas will refund those tickets that were bought by fans specifically to watch Nadal play one final time. Those tickets weren’t cheap by any means,” one fan said.

“Wonder how many bought tickets just to see him,” one wrote, prompting another to reply: “I did and it was pricey! I’m beyond frustrated.”

Another said: “Omg this is tragic!!! We got our tickets and everything!! Been looking forward to watching him to play!! So saaaddddd.”

One claimed “prices tripled” on other sessions: “WTF. We bought to see his match. Myself and hundreds other are not happy right now.”

Indian Wells organisers suffered another ticketing headache when Wednesday’s night session was rained out.

Fans who missed out due to the weather were reportedly offered a ground pass ticket for Thursday.

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