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Nadal Aims for Abu Dhabi Return Next Month

Rafael Nadal is aiming for an Abu Dhabi return next month—if his left foot continues feeling fine.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion said he is targeting a return at the 13th annual Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, December 16-18th, followed by a January tune-up tournament before playing the 2022 Australian Open.

More: Djokovic Still Undecided on Playing Australian Open

That comeback plan is contingent on the health of Nadal's left foot, which forced him to miss the Olympics and US Open before he pulled the plug on his season on August 20th.

"My plan is to play Abu Dhabi in December and a tournament before playing the Australian Open. It is my goal and we are working hard to make it that way," Nadal told the media at a promotional event for his sponsor. "I don't know exactly when I'll be back, but I can say that my goal is to try to come back to Abu Dhabi in December, and then, of course, for the start of the new season in January.

"The injury in my foot still needs to get a little better, but I'm already training almost an hour and a half a day so that's positive."

If Nadal's comeback plan proceeds on schedule he will play for a men's record 21st Grand Slam crown in Melbourne. Nine-time AO champion Novak Djokovic is undecided about playing the Australian Open saying he will wait to see what the Australian government's safety protocol for players will be before reaching a final decision. 

The Australian Open starts on January 17th, 2022.

Nadal won back-to-back five-set marathon matches defeating Fernando Verdasco and Roger Federer in succession to capture his lone Australian Open crown in 2009.

The 35-year-old Spaniard has reached four Australian Open finals since his 2009 triumph bowing to Novak Djokovic in 2012, dropping to Stan Wawrinka in 2013, falling to Federer in the 2017 and losing to Djokovic in the 2019 final. Nadal squandered a two-set lead in a five-set loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the 2021 Australian Open quarterfinals.

Tennis Express

Though Nadal concedes the foot injury hampered his preparation during the past year, he confirmed his commitment to returning to play for Slams in 2022.

"During the last year I was not able to practice and prepare myself the way I need to be competitive at the standards I want to be," Nadal said. "So we had to take that decision but I am confident I will recover myself 100 percent and will be able to fight again for the most important things."

Photo credit: Christopher Levy