• ATP Tour

Nadal expects rankings slide

ESPN staff
December 4, 2012
Rafael Nadal is targeting an eighth French Open title © PA Photos

Rafael Nadal has played down his chances of winning the Australian Open but is hoping to hit top form in time for the clay-court season.

The Spaniard is preparing to make his long-awaited comeback in the New Year after recovering from a knee injury.

He has not been seen since his shock second-round defeat to Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon in June, and it later emerged that Nadal had suffered a partial tear of the patella tendon and inflammation of the left knee.

Nadal returned to training last month, and is planning to make his comeback in Melbourne, but does not expect to hit top form until the clay-court season begins in April.

"My recovery is going well and the doctors are pleased," Nadal told Spanish radio. "I have to look at my career with a five-year view. I considered having surgery, but the doctors have always preferred not to take risks with my treatment."

The world No. 4 has tempered expectations during the first part of the season, and expects to slip down the rankings early in 2013 before he attempts to win an eighth French Open crown.

"I would like to return in January," he said. "I don't expect to return and win the Australian Open, I have to be realistic. The results will not worry me in the first tournaments back. I have to take into account my form after so long out.

"It wouldn't bother me if I slipped down to 15th in the world as long as inside I knew was able to continue. I want to be 100 per cent in time for Monte Carlo and the run-up to Roland Garros."

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