Rafael Nadal nearing return as he targets Australian Open
Rafael Nadal will head to the Australian Open and is set to face either Andy Murray or Dominic Thiem in his first match since ending his 2021 season early with a foot injury.
The Spaniard shut down his season ahead of the US Open after already being forced out of Wimbledon and the Olympics.
The world No 6 will be back on court on Friday at the exhibition Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi when he takes on either Andy Murray or Dan Evans.
It will be the first time Nadal has been seen in a match since a defeat to Lloyd Harris in Washington in early August, which was his first tournament since withdrawing from Wimbledon and the Olympics.
The 35-year-old pulled out of Wimbledon and the Olympics after revealing he had aggravated a left foot injury during his French Open loss, and made a fleeting return at the Washington ATP 500 where he played two matches before ending his season ahead of the US Open.
Speaking at a press conference in Abu Dhabi, Nadal said: “I am super happy to be back. It’s not about pain. I had pain a lot of times during my career, almost all the time, it’s more about having the chance to have a pain that I can manage to compete well.
“Let’s see. I need to try it in competition. Of course, I am feeling better, if not I will not be here. I know the comeback will be not easy. I don’t have big expectations now.
“My only expectation is to be here, to play in front of a great crowd again, to feel myself competing again against great players, and then enjoy. It has been a very tough period of time for me, honestly, so just to be here is great news for me.
The Spaniard is set to face the winner of an opening clash between Andy Murray and Dominic Thiem, the latter who also ended his season early with an injury, on Friday December 17.
He will then head to Australia, where he is entered in the Melbourne ATP 250 event commencing on January 3 before the season-opening Grand Slam kicks off on January 17.
However, retired Spanish player Alex Corretja has now raised concerns surrounding his countryman’s return to competitive tennis, and admitted Nadal’s body won’t be used to the demands of a real match.
“What worries me the most about Rafa’s recovery are his movements,” the former world said.
“His mobility on the court, his intensity, the way he is going to move, the way he will do the supports when he hits the ball.
“When he moves well and is well supported to hit his backhand and arrives perfectly to play with his parallel forehand and dominate, Rafa is almost impossible to beat. The problem is how he gets to that ball so he can be well supported and hit well.”