By the time the 2013 season swings into action, Rafael Nadal will have missed seven months of competitive tennis.
The Spain icon took the first steps towards a return to the big stage this week when confirming he had returned to training at his Mallorca base and has refused to rule out the possibility of returning for the upcoming Australian Open, which starts in January.
“Today was my first training session after so many weeks out,” he posted on his Facebook page. “I am making progress and I hope to continue to do so.”
His enthusiasm is admirable but the wisdom of returning to the sport for a Grand Slam is perhaps open to question, with ATP tour betting markets reacting to the news with caution. Let us not forget the 26-year-old has not picked up a racquet since Wimbledon on June 28, when he lost to the unseeded Lukas Rosol of Czech Republic in a second round defeat that shocked punters .
He was subsequently diagnosed as suffering with Hoffa syndrome, an inflammation of the fatty tissue situated behind the kneecap in his left knee. He was unable to defend his title at the London Olympics and missed the chance to exact revenge on Novak Djokovic for his 2011 defeat in the final of the US Open. He has also seen Spain usurped as Davis Cup holders. A lack of playing time means he has slipped to fourth behind Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray in the world rankings, while the likes of David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin del Potro are breathing down his neck. It is no surprise that Nadal is so keen to get back but to want to do it under such pressure on a surface which is not considered conducive to his condition and recovery is questionable.