It has been nearly six months since we have seen Rafael Nadal dominate on the tennis court. It is going to be at least a little longer, as he has already withdrawn from the Australian Open, but the layoff will not prevent him from reclaiming his throne whenever he does return.
Of course, right now no one seems to know when Nadal will be back. His whole timeline of events, starting with his knee injury last summer, has left a lot to be desired.
In August, Nadal told reporters (via ESPN.com) that he was going to take things slow with his recovery and not return until he was completely healthy.
I have to listen (to the doctors) and be patient, and I will come back when my knee is well. The best thing I can do now is to stop, get fully well, accept the situation and work hard to come back better.
There is nothing wrong with that statement. It is smart, logical, and the right thing for an athlete to do when dealing with an injury.
Then things kept progressing with no news on when he would return. Finally, right when it looked like Nadal was ready to come back, the news broke that he would be withdrawing from the Australian Open with a mysterious illness.
All of this leaves us with more questions than answers about Nadal. He told the London Times (via Tennis.com) that his knee was still giving him problems, on top of the virus that has infected his body.
Yet, despite all of this confusion and uncertainty, Nadal is going to return at some point in 2013. Just because it might not be as soon as we want it to be doesn't mean it is going to hurt his performance.
In fact, given the nature of the sport of tennis, a layoff this long might actually be good for him. Nadal has played virtually non-stop for the last 10 years. At 26 years old, he is starting to reach that age when skills start to decline.
By having the time to heal all of the injuries he had over the last six months, Nadal has been able to recharge his batteries. Even though he had to end his 2012 season prematurely, it's not like he had fallen off a cliff.
Nadal played in five tournament finals, winning four of them, including the French Open over Novak Djokovic.
All of the problems that have befallen Nadal in the last seven months took his career off the rails. Even as he waits to make his much-anticipated return, when he does get back on the court, it will be back to business as usual. The talent is too great for him to be down for too long.