• ATP Tour

Nadal targets Australian Open return

ESPN staff
October 19, 2012
Rafael Nadal plans to restructure his schedule to avoid overloading his knees in 2013 © Getty Images

Rafael Nadal has started to make plans for the 2013 season, announcing his debut at the Mexican Open in Acapulco shortly after his projected return at the Australian Open.

The Spaniard's uncle and coach Toni Nadal has not ruled out a return before the end of 2012, with the former world No. 1 targeting the Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament over the new year ahead of a return to grand-slam action in Melbourne.

"Just because his first confirmed event is in Acapulco does not mean he is not focusing on returning beforehand," Toni Nadal said. "He plans to return this year with Australia his priority at this point."

Nadal has not played a competitive match since his shock second-round exit at Wimbledon in the summer as he recovers from a long-term knee injury, and has hinted that he will steer clear of hard-court tournaments next season. The Mexican Open is a clay-court event.

"His training has gone well, physically and mentally he is in good shape," Toni Nadal added. "We can't put a fixed date down yet for his return. But all signs are positive that he will return sooner than later."

The 26-year-old had originally held out faint hopes that he might feature at the ATP World Tour Finals or Davis Cup final between Spain and the Czech Republic in November, but appears to have conceded defeat.

"I do not know if I'll be there or not, I need to work at a much lower intensity than that required for the ATP Finals and the Davis Cup final is all possible, but also unlikely," Nadal told CNN this week.

"The knee keeps bothering me, I am doing better, but still it is bothering me.

"In 2012 I was hoping to regain the number one ranking, but now I'm content to reappear in Australia and be competitive at 100%."

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