Rafael Nadal’s doctor has admitted that the Spaniard’s recent injury recurrence came as a shock as there were no signs of a potential setback on the cards after he returned to training.

The 31-year-old suffered a hip injury during his quarter-finals loss to Marin Cilic at the Australian Open in January and spent the next few weeks on the sidelines with a return planned for the Mexico Open in Acapulco on 26 February.

Nadal, however, withdrew just prior to the start of the event in Mexico sighting a recurrence of his hip injury and subsequently withdrew from the ongoing Indian Wells Masters in California and the upcoming Miami Open. He is expected to return for the start of the clay court swing of the campaign at the Monte Carlo Masters in April.

The 16-time men’s singles Grand Slam champion is yet to complete a tournament in 2018 and has struggled with injury since the end of last season with the last tournament he completed being the Shanghai Masters in October, 2017. But Nadal’s doctor Angel Ruiz Cotorro was surprised that he suffered a recurrence admitting that his period of rehabilitation was sufficient.

The world number two was not rushed into action and was returning to competitive action after a period of normal training. However, the doctor admits that setbacks can occur without warning despite the team taking all the precautions necessary.

"Medicine is not two by two, it is not an exact science, unfortunately," Cotorro said, as quoted by the Express. "What happened to Rafa can happen, but because of his evolution there was nothing that made us think that this would happen.”

“He was training normal, very strong, and without noticing any discomfort. Nor did he feel charged. Suddenly, in a movement, he had a puncture and ... Sometimes these things heal, it seems that everything is fine, and it can happen.

"We have studied it and it is not usual what happened, it should not have been repeated in the time we have had. Five weeks was more than enough time to recover,” the Spaniard’s doctor explained.

Nadal will be hoping to get back to full fitness ahead of the clay court swing of the season which begins on 14 April with the Monte Carlo Masters, where he has won 10 times. The Spaniard’s absence in the clay court events could see him drop down the rankings, as he is defending 4,680 points after picking up titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros in 2017.

Despite his struggles with injury, if Nadal returns for the clay court season, he will be among the favorites going into the French Open in May having picked up an unprecedented 10th title on the red dirt in Paris last season.