When the top four players in men's tennis—Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray—are all healthy, there is no other sport with as much compelling competition at the top. For that reason, having a healthy Rafa Nadal return to tennis is vital for the sport next year.
Many thought the Spaniard might be able to return in December for the Davis Cup. While that remains a possibility, Rafa seems more focused on making sure he is ready to return for the Australian Open.
"My biggest goal is to compete at Australian Open," the 26-year-old Spaniard told CNN Espanol, referring to the first grand slam of 2013.
"About the Davis Cup final, of course I would love to take part in it, but first I have to see if I will be ready technically and physically.
"We would have to ask whether I am the right choice to compete in a Spanish team that has been long preparing for this important tie considering also the months I have spent without playing. But that's a decision that it's not mine."
In 2012, two things took place that should make 2013 unbelievably competitive at the top.
Not only did Roger Federer remind everyone he still had it by winning Wimbledon, but Andy Murray finally entered the realm of the elite by winning an Olympic gold medal and the U.S. Open.
That ensured that each of the Big Four won one of the Grand Slams in 2012, a parity atop the rankings that has to have tennis fans licking their lips, or doing something else slightly less creepy that denotes excitement or anticipation.
Nadal is currently recovering from tendonitis (inflammation in the knee). I know, I know—I just assumed he had tennis elbow, too. His tendonitis has kept him sidelined since July, so it's obviously been a pretty serious case.
If Nadal returns for the Davis Cup, great. However, what tennis fans really want is for him to be ready to go in time for the Australian Open. Nothing would make fans happier than a quarterfinal with Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray all going head-to-head.
When that happens, there isn't a level of play higher in any other sport. That's why tennis needs Nadal back—with Rafa in the fold, the men's game is simply more captivating at the top than anything else in sport.
We need you, Rafa. Get well soon.
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