Rafael Nadal's brilliant start to the 2022 campaign has come to a devastating halt after the Spaniard confirmed that he has sustained a stress fracture to one of his ribs. The injury occurred during Nadal's win against Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Masters in Indian Wells.

The 35-year-old suffered his first loss of the 2022 season to Taylor Fritz in the final. After his straight sets defeat, Nadal revealed that he was struggling to breathe during the final while also feeling a stinging pain in his chest.

It has now been confirmed that the 2022 Australian Open champion was playing with a fractured rib. Nadal expects to be out for at least four to six weeks, which is a devastating blow after making such a fine start to the campaign that earned him four finals and three titles.

"Hi everyone, I wanted to let you know that I'm back in Spain and I went straight to see my medical team for tests after the Indian Wells final, which I played in discomfort," Nadal tweeted in Spanish. "I have a stress fracture in one of my ribs and I will be out for 4 to 6 weeks. It's not good news and I didn't expect this. I am devastated and sad because after such a good start to the season I have had."

Al final resulta que tengo una fisura por estrés en una de las costillas y estaré entre 4 y 6 semanas de baja. No son buenas noticias y no me esperaba esto. Estoy hundido y triste porque tras el inicio de temporada que he tenido tan buena.

— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) March 22, 2022

"Now is a very important time of the year for me and I had a very good feeling and good results. Well, I have always had that spirit of fighting and overcoming and what I will do is be patient and work hard after my recovery. Once again I would like to thank everyone for their support."

Nadal went 20-0 for the season before suffering his first loss at Indian Wells. The 21-time men's singles Grand Slam winner was looking forward to the clay court season, but his latest injury could see him miss most of the major events on his favourite surface.

The Monte Carlo Masters is the first big clay court event, that gets underway on Apr. 10. The Spaniard is certain to miss the tournament in the Principality, and the Barcelona Open two weeks later. The earliest he could return is likely to be for the Madrid Masters on May 1 or the Italian Open on May 8, which is just two weeks before the French Open gets underway at Roland Garros.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal now has 21 Grand Slam titles after winning the 2022 Australian Open Martin KEEP/AFP