Sometimes taking things slowly is the best approach, and that's what Rafael Nadal is doing by playing an exhibition before he takes on a Grand Slam challenge fresh from injury.
Nadal is still one of the four best tennis players in the world, and he's almost ready to rejoin the fray after a four-month break from the sport. Injuries forced Nadal to miss the Olympics and the U.S. Open per ESPN, but now he's set to return to the game.
Nadal is eyeing a return to the major tennis scene in Melbourne at the Australian Open, but he'll use the Mubadala World Tennis Championships in Abu Dhabi as a tune-up. The event is an exhibition, but it has drawn some of the biggest names and players in the sport.
Per the official website, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Janko Tipsarevic are all scheduled to compete. Win or lose, as long as Nadal's left knee holds up, he should be ready to give a serious effort at the Australian Open.
Nadal doesn't genuinely play matches in December, unless they're in Davis Cup competition. Playing this late in the year will be an adjustment, but it's the smart way to ease himself back into a regular schedule.
New challenges await him when he returns to the men's tennis scene. Murray has legitimized himself as a truly elite player by capturing Olympic Gold and the U.S. Open in Nadal's absence.
With Roger Federer's Wimbledon triumph, Nadal's longtime rival has seemingly injected his career with new life.
Then there is always the resilient and still-elite Djokovic to contend with. Nadal must be at 100 percent—mentally and physically—when the Australian Open rolls around. He needs to trust his knee and gain confidence.
Playing in Abu Dhabi is the best way to test himself.
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