Rafael Nadal will return to the court this week in Abu Dhabi, sending fans into a frenzy after the 20-time grand slam champion's long injury layoff.
The Spanish superstar hasn't played since re-injuring his foot at a tournament in Washington in August.
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He was forced to miss Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics after first suffering the injury at the French Open in May.
He then sat out the US Open after aggravating the injury in Washington in the lead-up to the New York grand slam.
Nadal announced in August that he'd be sitting out the remainder of the tennis season, leaving fans fearful that he wouldn't be back in time for January's Australian Open.
However the 35-year-old will make his long-awaited return at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi this week.
Tournament officials released a video of Nadal hitting the practice court in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, sending fans into meltdown.
— l_espressionista (@Lespressionista) December 15, 2021
— Virginia (@vje51) December 15, 2021
Vamos Rafa great to see you back
— Vanessa (@MathyseVanessa) December 15, 2021
I can’t wait!!!! I’ll finally watch 🎾 again 🙌 🙌
— M.P. (@yodeex99) December 15, 2021
Can't wait Friday to see Rafa live again after almost 3 years waiting!
— Polina (@polaalex36) December 15, 2021
Ahead of his return after four months out, former player and Eurosport analyst Alex Corretja issued a warning to Nadal.
"What worries me the most about Rafa's recovery are his movements," Corretja said.
"His mobility on the court, his intensity, the way he is going to move, the way he will do the supports when he hits the ball.
"When he moves well and is well supported to hit his backhand and arrives perfectly to play with his parallel forehand and dominate, Rafa is almost impossible to beat.
"The problem is how he gets to that ball so he can be well supported and hit well."
Dominic Thiem withdraws from Abu Dhabi event
Nadal has added former doubles player Marc Lopez, with whom he won an Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Games in Rio, to his coaching team.
Lopez will accompany him in Abu Dhabi this week as he ramps up his preparations for the Australian Open.
Nadal will be eyeing a men's record 21st grand slam title at Melbourne Park.
He is currently tied for the lead on 20 with great rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, although Federer will not be playing at the Australian Open.
Meanwhile, Dominic Thiem said on Wednesday that he plans to return to competitive tennis at the ATP Cup in Australia in January after cancelling his participation in Abu Dhabi.
"The ATP Cup is definitely the goal now. I hope I will be able to play there... I'm optimistic," the 2020 US Open champion told reporters.
The 28-year-old said his wrist had fully healed from an injury that had kept him off the court since August, but he had yet to overcome a mental block when he is hitting the ball.
"The whole process is going according to plan. I am pain free," he said.
"But I lag behind in training. I only go on the court when I can do 100 percent of the forehand, and I am currently at 80."
The Austrian said he was currently back to training several hours a day but has not yet played against any of his teammates, leading him to call off competing at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
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