Rafael Nadal's Early Return Makes Him Immediate Threat at Australian Open

Tim KeeneyContributor IOctober 2, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 28:  Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts during his Gentlemen's Singles second round match against Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic on day four of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 28, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

The more time Rafael Nadal spends on a tennis court, the better.

Well, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and the rest of the tennis world might not feel that way, but Nadal's reported early return can only be looked at as an encouraging sign for the Spaniard's prospects in Australia in January.

The news comes from the Associated Press (via ESPN):

Rafael Nadal plans to return from a knee injury at an Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament in December.

Organizers of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship said on Tuesday in a statement that Nadal is set to join a field including Novak DjokovicAndy Murray and David Ferrer.

The tournament runs from Dec. 27-29.

Because of that knee injury, Nadal hasn't played since falling victim to one of the biggest upsets of all time at the hands of World No. 100 Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon.

He missed the Olympics. He missed the U.S. Open. He missed everything in between and, as a result, has seen Roger Federer take his game back to mid-2000's Federer and Andy Murray propel himself to No. 3 in the World. 

At any rate, if someone can go from a six-month hiatus straight back into one of the four biggest tournaments of the year and have success, it's someone as talented as Nadal.

But that's not ideal.

Tennis is a sport where repetitions matter. The less you play, the more rust there is, which leads to a lack of timing, poor first-serve percentage, bad decisions and other negative play. 

That's why every year before the French Open, players compete in multiple clay-court tournaments, or before Wimbledon, grass-court tournaments.

Tennis players love warm-up tournaments almost as much as fat kids love cake, and that's why Nadal's return, which will now come a good two weeks before the start of the Australian Open, can only be seen as a positive.

If he were to make his return in Australia, you would expect him to have kinks to work out, and thus be quite the underdog considering the amount of talent around him is suddenly increasing.

But now that Nadal will get to work those kinks out in Abu Dhabi, the outlook in Australia, where he made it to the finals this year after running through Tomas Berdych and Roger Federer, is suddenly much brighter.