As the saying goes, every long journey begins with a single step. Rafael Nadal’s journey back to full fitness began with a single step back onto the practice courts in his home town of Manacor in Majorca.
The Spaniard hasn’t played a competitive match for nearly five months due to his ongoing knee problems, but the 11-time Grand Slam winner has targeted January’s Australian Open for his return. It will mean the upcoming festive period will be a time when Nadal tries to get himself back into the sort of shape where he can realistically head to Melbourne fit enough to compete in the year’s first Grand Slam event.
Now his left knee has recovered enough for him to get back on the practice courts, Nadal has made it clear he is determined to do everything he can to ensure he doesn’t rush back too soon.
“I am feeling better, the knee is improving the right way and I am happy to be oncourt. I am just enjoying the feeling to be playing tennis. I start very slow and I go day by day. I will work hard in my comeback and hopefully the kneewill be ready soon,” revealed Nadal.
“You always you have to be careful. A few months outside of competition the body has tore-adapt everything and all the muscles need to start very slow.”
While 2012 hasn’t been a complete write off for Nadal – winning his seventh French Open crown in June –it certainly won’t be a season that the Spaniard will look back on with fondness in the future.
Nadal’s second round defeat to Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon highlighted just how badly he was struggling with injury, but making the decision to end his season at that point could be the difference between another injury-plagued year in 2013 or being able to stay fit for a full season.
The form of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray will mean that it may not be simply a case of Nadal getting himself back fit for him to be able to challenge those three players during the opening stages of next season. When he does recover from this latest problem, though, Nadal will be looking to get himself back up to the number one spot.
There is no doubt that Nadal’s aggressive and committed style has played a big role in his continuing knee problems, and it seems highly unlikely we’ll see the 26-year old playing the game into his 30’s. For as long as he’s around, however, Nadal will be determined to make sure he collects as many Grand Slams as possible, and his rivals won’t be writing the Spaniard off just yet. You can check out the player’s current prices to succeed next season alongside the Unibet Premier League odds.