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Rafael Nadal concerns raised as Spaniard makes injury comeback ahead of Australian Open

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Rafael Nadal is set to make his return to the tennis court this week after spending several months on the sidelines with a foot injury. The world No 6 shut down his season ahead of the US Open after already being forced out of Wimbledon and the Olympics. He will now play this week’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition in Abu Dhabi before heading down under for January’s Australian Open, but a former world No 2 has shared his worries for Nadal’s comeback.

Nadal suffered a shock semi-final loss at Roland Garros, where he is a 13-time champion, back in June.

The 35-year-old then 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.

He will now return to the match court for the first time in more than four months at this week’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship, an annual exhibition tournament held in Abu Dhabi.

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).

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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.

Rafael Nadal

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 No 2 told Eurosport.

“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.”

The two-time French Open finalist did believe that Nadal would be able to use the Mubadala event and even the opening week of the Australian Open to find his form once again, but warned that other players would be used to competition while the 20-time Grand Slam champion’s body would struggle.

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He added: “He is going to get to the Australian Open and, when you have not competed for so long, these players are so good that they win many matches, but your body is not used to it and you get other pains in the shoulder or back.

“He has to pick up the rhythm during the tournament. Rafa is already good enough for the first week of the Grand Slam to serve as a preparation. Before, maybe he didn’t think so, but his level of tennis and his physique require that during the first week of a Grand Slam, he must find a good rhythm.”

Rafael Nadal racket

Corretja also shared his hope that Nadal would meet a fellow former world No 1 in Andy Murray during his semi-final in Abu Dhabi later this week, rather than 2020 US Open champion Thiem.

“I think it would be nice to see him [play Andy Murray first in Abu Dhabi], because he is a very smart player who knows perfectly how to play against Rafa,” the 47-year-old admitted.

“I think playing with Andy can give him a necessary rhythm to play two-and-a-half hours in a very tough match, but at a pace that he likes.

“With Thiem it might be too explosive. Andy is different, he plays fast, he plays defensively, on offence. It’s a very good test to see where Rafa is.”

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