Early signs are good for Rafael Nadal but the former world No.1 faces a tough Australian Open fitness test at this week’s Brisbane International.
Nadal, 30, made a triumphant return from the wrist injury that had sidelined him since October, winning the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition event title at Abu Dhabi on New Year’s Eve.
The 14-time grand slam winner defeated world No.11 David Goffin of Belgium 6-4 7-6, claiming the lucrative title for a fourth time.
However, the fifth-seeded Spaniard faces a tough turnaround for his Brisbane International debut.
Nadal will arrive in Brisbane on Monday – barely 24 hours before a first-round clash with Ukraine’s world No.62 Alexandr Dolgopolov, a former Brisbane International finalist.
It’s a testing schedule for someone who has battled knee and wrist injuries the past two years.
But world No.9 Nadal showed no sign of discomfort at Abu Dhabi – his first tournament since ending his year after October’s Shanghai Masters.
“I’m very happy to be competing again,” said Nadal, who has recruited ex-world No.1 Carlos Moya as his new coach.
“These three days have been very good for me.
“These three days, playing at this level, bode very well for the rest of the season.”
Nadal is expected to take on former world No.13 Dolgopolov on Tuesday.
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) December 30, 2016
German Mischa Zverev likely looms in the second round before a potential quarter-final showdown with top seed and world No.3 Milos Raonic.
However, Nadal has been heartened by his Abu Dhabi form where he defeated Raonic 7-6(7-2) 6-3 to make the final against Goffin.
Canada’s Raonic was also headed for Brisbane after he was defeated by world No.1 Andy Murray 6-3 7-6 (8-6) in the third-place playoff.
He has a first-round bye in Brisbane.