TENNIS

Nadal to return in Abu Dhabi

Former number one will test knee at year’s end invitational

Nadal training with his coach and uncle, Toni. / REUTERS / CORDON PRESS

Rafa Nadal on Tuesday confirmed that he will make his competitive return to the courts at the Mubadala invitational tournament in Abu Dhabi later this month.

The Spaniard has been sidelined for six months since suffering a partial tear of the patella tendon in his left knee. The seven-time Roland Garros champion has suffered from persistent knee injuries throughout his career caused by patellar tendonitis, also known as jumper’s knee. His last competitive match was at Wimbledon in June, where he was beaten in the first round by Trivial Pursuit question-in-waiting Lukas Rosol.

Nadal subsequently missed the Olympic Games — where he would have defended his Beijing gold medal — the US Open and Spain’s Davis Cup semifinal and final ties.

“Can’t wait to get back on court in Abu Dhabi at the end of the month,” Nadal wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday. “I won the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in 2010 and 2011. Would love to get my hands on the trophy again this year!”

It will be the first step on a long haul as he attempts to regain his number-one ranking, which he relinquished in June 2011 after defeat to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Queen’s Club. In his absence, Andy Murray has moved up to world number three while Novak Djokovic, the year-end number one, and Roger Federer jousted for the top spot.

The Swiss maestro held the number one rank between July 16 and the November 5, bettering Pete Sampras’ record of 286 weeks at the pinnacle of the ATP standing.

Nadal, currently world number four, is 5,600 points adrift of Djokovic and has compatriot David Ferrer, who has become the perennial number five, breathing down his neck a mere 185 points behind.

At the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, a non-ATP event, Nadal has a first-round bye and is scheduled to meet either Murray or world number nine Janko Tipsarevic in the semifinal. In the other half of the draw, Djokovic has also been handed a bye, while Ferrer will play Tomas Berdych for the right to face the world number one in the last four. The tournament runs from December 27 to 29.

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