Rafael Nadal
Nadal will miss March's Sunshine Double. Getty

Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from Indian Wells and the Miami Open after suffering a recurrence of a hip injury that has plagued his start to 2018.

Nadal, 32, withdrew from this week's Mexican Open in Acapulco on Tuesday ahead of his opening round match against Feliciano Lopez, pulling out during a final practice session.

The 16-time grand slam winner initially suggested returning at Indian Wells, which begins on 8 March, would be a "great goal" for him but having since sought further medical advice, the Spaniard has now opted to skip the Sunshine Double and focus solely on his recovery.

The injury is the same problem that forced Nadal to quit in the fifth set of his Australian Open quarter-final match against Marin Cilic in January.

"Unfortunately, the injury I suffered in Acapulco before starting the tournament is in the same area as the one suffered in Melbourne," Nadal wrote in a short statement released via Facebook. "I won't be able to play in Miami in Indian Wells as I need to recover. It was very painful to retire from Acapulco and it is very hard as well to not play in the USA. I will miss you and I will do everything that is possible to be back there in 2019."

Nadal's decision could suggest he is prioritising a return in time for the clay court season which begins at the Monte Carlo Masters in April. However, the Spaniard is yet to provide any real time frame on his return to action.

The injury will also delay Nadal's hopes of wrestling the world number one ranking back from old rival Roger Federer, after the Swiss reclaimed the top ranking in men's tennis during February's Rotterdam Open. The Mallorca-native is set to fall 600 points behind the 20-time grand slam winner when the ATP rankings are recalculated next week as a result of pulling out of the Mexican Open.

Nadal is also set to drop a further 690 points collected from last year's Indian Wells and Miami Open campaigns, having reached the fourth round in California before losing in the final in Florida, both to Federer.