Realistically, nobody expects Rafael Nadal to set the world on fire in the early going of his 2013 comeback.
The Spaniard suffered a debilitating left knee injury last summer and hasn’t been able to get back onto the court.
The 11-time Gram Slam winner chose to forego surgery in order to heal naturally and rehabilitate the partial tear that he suffered in his left knee. Tendinitis and swelling in the knee persisted as well, delaying the healing process.
Nadal was realistic about his expectations upon his return, back in December, according to a Reuters report (via IBNLive.com):
“I would like to return in January. I don’t expect to return and win the Australian Open, I have to be realistics,” Nadal said. “The results will not worry me in the first tournaments back.”
Like Nadal, let’s take a realistic look at what to expect from the former world No. 1 in his comeback season.
It’s Clay Season
The “King of Clay” is coming back at a good time. His upcoming return at the 2013 Brazil Open will be a strong indicator of how ready Nadal is to get back into the full swing of international competition.
If he can put up a strong showing in his first couple of tournaments, although his expectations are tempered, he might be able to come away from this tough injury unscathed.
That’s good for a 26-year-old who has lofty expectations, like unseating Roger Federer’s Grand Slam mark. The Swiss kingpin has 17 titles and doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Working Off of That Knee
How will his left knee hold up and will he have to tone down his level of participation this season? If he is truly 100 percent and healed he should be able to play a full 2013 schedule.
But that’s being optimistic. Knee injuries, especially in sport, are nagging and have lasting consequences, even more so if you elect to pass on surgery.
He should be able to compete for much of the year, but may likely run into some early obstacles if everything doesn’t go as planned at Sao Paulo.
Nadal is still just 26 years old and has the right people in his corner advising him on how to complete this comeback. Overall, he should step away from this unfazed and be able to return to his previous form.
If he struggles and misses some tournaments in the early running, he may not get back to 100 percent in time to make a difference in some of the big tournaments early in 2013.
We really won’t know anything until he steps onto the court. But, we do know that he is undoubtedly hungry for action and will compete to his best ability.