Rafael Nadal is on course to return to fitness in late December, and if the revival is as swift as many fans of the sport are hoping, the Spaniard will come back to claim the Australian Open.
Since losing to Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon earlier this year, little has been seen or heard of Nadal, save for the occasional blip here and there across social networks.
The 26-year-old has bided his time in the last three months, withdrawing from the 2012 Summer Olympics, U.S. Open and Rogers Cup along with others.
According to 10sBalls.com, Nadal’s return could come in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, where he could compete against the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych.
The exhibition event will be the first glimpse of the Spaniard since 2012 brought his worst Wimbledon finish in seven years, and will test as to whether he’s ready to make a full recovery.
Will the Australian Open be a glorious return for Rafa?
However, January brings us the real struggle, and an athlete of Nadal’s calibre is bound for success in the first Grand Slam event of 2013.
The former World No.1 has been mature enough to pull out of events that he just hasn’t been ready for in recent months and wouldn't be texting pictures of himself practising to Craig Tiley (via The Australian) unless he was truly ready to re-emerge from his slumber.
It’s vital that Nadal eases the joints in Abu Dhabi, as tennis is a sport in which momentum counts for a lot. With that being the case, there is a heck of a lot of rust for Nadal to shake off in the next two months.
If practise starts now, that means the Spaniard has roughly 11 weeks before the Mubadala championship to prepare himself not just physically, but mentally, for a return that could make or break his 2013 season.
Nadal will be all too aware of just what is at risk should he fail to perform in the January Australian Open, and is too mature to be naïve about the matter in any shape or form.
Last season, Djokovic managed to prevail over Nadal, a memory that will be all but too fresh in the mind of the loser. Nadal will want to reclaim a title that was once his, but now feels oh so distant.
Right now, the giant figures of Djokovic, Federer and Murray are riding high in the absence of their former fourth competitor but will be brought back down to Earth when their amigo finally does return.
Nadal's last competitive match being a loss may come across as a positive to some, but the fact that the European giant was exposed will ultimately work against his enemies.
In short, hell hath no fury like a Rafael Nadal scorned, and scorned the player has been.