Rafael Nadal is optimistic about his chances of being ready for next month’s Australian Open after returning to training this week following surgery.
The 28-year-old Spaniard admits, however, that he will start the 2015 season “from almost zero”, while he expects his main rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to continue their recent fine form.
Nadal missed the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London last month to undergo surgery to remove his appendix.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion, who has also battled knee, wrist and back problems, is now on the comeback trail though and, after returning to training on Monday, is already casting his eye towards a return to competitive action.
Nadal is looking at the events in Abu Dhabi and Doha at the start of 2015 as a chance to step up his recovery ahead of the Australian Open, which begins on January 19.
In an interview with a Spanish newspaper, he said: “It’s always a bit tough starting off after a few difficult months, without any continuity, and after the last month and half without being able to play any sport and the appendicitis.
“What I have to do this month is to get myself fit physically, progress my tennis as much as possible and lay the foundations to start well in Abu Dhabi and in Doha.
“Then (I have to) take advantage of those tournaments to recover the competitiveness that I’ve not had for months.”
Nadal’s only Australian Open triumph so far came back in 2009, but he was runner-up to Djokovic in 2012 and reached the final again earlier this year only to lose to Stan Wawrinka.
When asked about the possibility of him being fully fit for Melbourne Park in six weeks’ time, Nadal said: “If you train well and you feel right physically, the process is much quicker.
“In a few days you pick up the speed of the ball again, the movement in the legs and, if I do good work at home and I play well at the start of the year, that could be enough to arrive in Australia well prepared.”
Nadal refused to look too far ahead, though, and admitted he does not know if he will be able to continue his record run that has seen him win at least one grand slam title every year for the last decade.
He said “Nobody has managed to go 10 successive years winning a grand slam, it’s a lot. I don’t know if I will be able to...but neither am I thinking about it.
“What I must do is play well, prepare, and give myself the opportunities.”