Rafael Nadal is finally back on the pitch after several months off. The Spanish champion has returned from a very troubled season, in which physical problems prevented him from playing as much as he would have liked. Suffice it to say that the 35-year-old Majorcan played just seven official tournaments in 2021, while still managing to put a couple of trophies on his beloved clay court.
Pain in his foot and a Novak Djokovic in a state of grace prevented him from winning his 14th Roland Garros. Due to a chronic foot injury, the former world number 1 was forced to miss Wimbledon, the Tokyo Olympics and the US Open.
If there are no further setbacks, the 20-time Grand Slam champion will participate in the Melbourne ATP 250 (which starts on January 4th). His hope is to present himself in good shape at the Australian Open, where he will try to repeat his only triumph dating back to 2009.
Speaking to the media during the Abu Dhabi exhibition, Rafa admitted that it will not be easy to return to the highest levels.
Rafa Nadal on his future
"It’s going to be super difficult for me," Rafael Nadal said. "If things are going well, I’m only going to play one tournament before Australia and these two matches here, so the amount of hours on court at the competitive level before such a tough and demanding tournament like Australia will be not much.
But the main thing is still always the same, be healthy," he insisted. "If I am healthy, I still have the interior fire to keep going and to fight for my goals." The legendary trio are currently tied on a record of 20 men's Majors.
"I am outside of the competition for the last five, six months,” Nadal admitted. "I understand that the conversation [about the Grand Slam race] is always there, especially with Novak that he has been playing every week almost.
Me and Roger have been injured for such a long period of time. Of course we are equal, but the chances for Novak are much higher than for us." At the 2021 ATP Awards, the Spaniard was once again bestowed with the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship award.
He was voted as the perfect candidate by fellow tennis players. Along with Nadal, players like Felix Auger-Aliassime, Casper Ruud, and Frances Tiafoe were also part of the nominations. Coming to his tennis comeback, Nadal is currently playing the Mubadala World Tennis Championship as a warm-up event ahead of the Australian tennis summer.
While Nadal is hopeful of making it to Australia, there are still a lot to be known regarding the status of his recovery.