Rafael Nadal and his aching body are set to return to tennis for the tournament beginning in Abu Dhabi on Dec. 27.
While nursing a knee injury, Nadal has not been in a competitive match in six months.
The Associated Press passed along this quote, which was posted on Nadal's Facebook page, "[I] can't wait to get back on court in Abu Dhabi." He also said, "[I] would love to get my hands on the trophy again this year!"
The Abu Dhabi tournament is not a full tournament, so it is a nice return target for Nadal. It will feature just a six-man field. However, the competition will be stiff, as the AP noted both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will participate.
This will allow Nadal to get back into competitive tennis without the long grind and wear and tear of a full tournament. And while Nadal is itching to get his "hands on the trophy," the concern should not be as much about that tournament as it is for the upcoming year.
To that end, it is a great sign that the 11-time Grand Slam champ is planning on playing in this event.
The Associated Press noted that Nadal, 26, resumed practicing under supervision on Nov. 20. Had there been any lingering effects from his knee, or any of the other laundry list of injuries he's suffered, he would not be playing in this event. There would be no reason to risk it, and with Nadal it would be a risk.
Anyone who has watched Nadal can attest that the guy only knows one way to play—all out.
So it is safe to assume that Nadal is feeling at least close to 100 percent, and it's just in time for the start of the new year.
The Australian Open starts on Jan. 14. Playing in the Abu Dhabi tournament gives Nadal a chance to get his match legs back without overdoing it, and it should leave him in nice shape to make a run at claiming the year's first major.