Spanish legend Rafael Nadal is training again after getting Covid-19 and is ready to fly to Melbourne to compete in next week’s ATP 250 tournament.
The 20-time grand slam champion and 2009 Australian Open winner’s arrival date is still unconfirmed, but News Corp can confirm he is confident of taking the trip.
Nadal, who is fully vaccinated, last played on the tour in Washington in August, after which he ended his season prematurely due to a persistent foot injury.
He was on his way to the Australian Open when he played in this month’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship show event in Abu Dhabi, to subsequently reveal that he had tested positive for Covid-19.
Andrey Rublev, Denis Shapovalov, Ons Jabeur and Belinda Bencic also picked up the virus after competing in the Abu Dhabi exhibition, while Emma Raducanu withdrew in advance.
There were fears at the time that Nadal could make the list of key players retiring to the Australian Open.
But Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley eased those concerns last week, saying he was “sure” Nadal would recover in time after talking to his team.
That optimism looks to the money now, after Nadal on Wednesday conducted a hard-hitting session with the promising teenage compatriot Daniel Rincon, the world’s No. 2 junior.
With Roger Federer already out of the grand slam event and serious doubts about Novak Djokovic, Nadal’s arrival in Australia ahead of the tennis summer would be a big boost.
Like Djokovic, Nadal would go straight into the grand slam men’s singles title if he triumphs at Melbourne Park for the second time.
Retired compatriot David Ferrer, a former world number 3, said in recent days that he believed Nadal had a real chance of winning the 2022 Australian Open title.
Speaking during the Abu Dhabi event, Nadal revealed that further grand slam success was what drove him rather than just enjoying or making more money.
“I still believe I want to be competitive enough to give myself chances to compete for the things that I have competed for the last 15 years,” Nadal said.
“If not, personally, it does not make sense (to continue).
“I do not play for money or just for fun; I play to keep reaching goals or at least to enjoy the process of trying to reach my goals.
“If you then do not achieve, that’s fine, but the motivation and passion is still there.”
Along with his title at the 2009 Australian Open, Nadal finished second four times and reached at least the quarter-finals on eight other occasions.