Rafael Nadal
Nadal, the 2017 runner-up, pulled out of the Australian Open with a hip problem Getty Images

Rafael Nadal's doctor, Angel Ruiz Cotorro, believes that the injuries suffered by tennis players in the modern era are primarily a result of technical changes in the game that has led to a mass increase in the number of setbacks in recent years.

Changes in racquet material, surfaces, speed of the game, training systems are all to blame for the increase in injuries, having seen the likes of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka miss the better part of last season, Cotorro pointed out. Nadal and Roger Federer themselves were missing for a major part of 2016 but returned in 2017 in remarkable fashion and have since shared five Grand Slams played between them.

The Spaniard's wish to close the gap on Federer in the Australian Open suffered a setback as he had to pull out of his quarter-final clash against Marin Cilic with a hip injury, which has set him back by upto three weeks. The Swiss ace, meanwhile, took his tally to 20 Grand Slams by winning his sixth title in Melbourne, increasing the gap with Nadal to four.

This is not the first time in the recent past that the Spaniard has had a major setback, having had to pull out of the Paris Masters midway through the tournament and the ATP World Tour finals in the end of 2017 with a knee injury. The setback saw turn up in Melbourne without any competitive tennis under his belt and paid the price for his hastiness.

Nadal now has a fight on his hands to keep his number one ranking intact amid competition from Federer, who is only 155 points behind him. He has confirmed that he will return to the tour in the Mexico Open, starting on 26 February, while Federer is contemplating participation in the Dubai Open.

Meanwhile, Cotorro believes the changes are increasingly affecting the younger players on the circuit and that they need to work together in order to alleviate the growing risks that have befallen in recent times.

"There have been many changes in this sport (racquet material, surfaces, speed of the game, training systems) and that price is being paid by players in the form of injuries," Cotorro said at the MAPFRE Clinic for Tennis Medicine in Madrid, as quoted by the Express.

"These are new injuries and are increasingly affecting more of the younger players.

"We have to work to be a benchmark in sports medicine in Madrid."