Rafa Nadal has delighted his legion of tennis fans after announcing he will make his return at the Cincinnati Masters next week in the lead-up to the US Open.
The 22-time grand slam champion hasn't played since being forced to withdraw from Wimbledon before his semi-final against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury.
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He wasn't fit enough to play at the current Canadian Open in Montreal, but on Wednesday announced that he will be back in action in Cincinnati.
"Very happy to play again in Cincy. Flying there tomorrow," the 36-year-old wrote on Instagram.
The Spaniard hasn't played in Cincinnati for five years after winning the title there in 2013.
He will be seeking a fifth US Open title and 23rd major when the hard-court grand slam gets underway in New York on August 29.
He will be one of the favourites to lift the crown with Novak Djokovic highly unlikely to play due to his vaccination refusal.
Speaking about his abdominal injury after withdrawing from Montreal, Nadal said: “I have been practising for a while now without serving and started with serves four days ago.
“Everything has been going well. However yesterday, after my normal practice, I felt a slight bother on my abdominal and today it was still there.
“After speaking with my doctor, we prefer to take things in a conservative way and give a few more days before starting to compete.”
The news of his participation in Cincinnati sent tennis fans into a frenzy on social media.
Rafael Nadal confirmed in Cincinnati next week. https://t.co/Yz2QZJaT0M
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) August 10, 2022
— Jane 20 22💙 (@Yorvik187) August 10, 2022
Yay!!! Great news!
— LAURA DOLAN (@LauraDolan62) August 10, 2022
GOAT is back
— Bengtion (@Bengtion12) August 10, 2022
Rafael Nadal will play in Cincinnati. Hope he is healthy and his abdominal tear is completely healed. Vamos Rafaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
— Raj (@07reddevilz) August 10, 2022
Can’t wait to watch you play. ❤️
— Tammy Young (@TammyYo54801509) August 10, 2022
Great to hear you’re taking part in the 2022 Cincinnati tournament.
Always a breath of fresh air to watch you play. Can’t wait!!!!!
— Emeka Nwachukwu (@EmekaNwachukw12) August 10, 2022
Is Rafa Nadal nearing retirement?
Fans have speculated in recent months that this could be Nadal's final year on tour.
He recently confirmed the wonderful news that his wife Xisca is pregnant, and has previously expressed his desire to hang up the racquet once he starts having children.
"If everything goes well, I'm going to be a father," he said in June.
"I'm not used to talking about my private life. We live more peacefully with a lower profile. I don't expect that my life will change much with it."
The Spanish champion has previously stated that he didn't want to start a family until after he retires, with his first baby reportedly due in October.
“I would love to have children, boys, girls…I'm a person who loves kids and I'm a family guy," he said in 2017.
"But also I tell you that the reality is...the years keep passing.
“I would like to start to do all of this when my sporting life determines it.
"I think it's also above all about looking after the kids. I don't know if it [travelling throughout the year when you have children] is ideal."
Speaking after his historic French Open triumph earlier this year, Nadal hinted that he might soon retire if persistent injuries keep plaguing him.
“It’s obvious that with circumstances that I am playing, I can’t and I don’t want to keep going, so the mindset is very clear," he said about playing with injuries.
"I’m going to keep working to try to find a solution and an improvement for what’s happening in the foot.
"It's going to be...trying to burn a little bit the nerve and create the impact that I have now on the nerve for a long period of time.
"That's what we are going to try. If that works, I'm going to keep going. If that does not work, then it's going to be another story.
"And then I am going to ask myself if I am ready to do a major thing without being sure that things are going the proper way, for example.
"A major surgery that doesn't guarantee me to be able to be competitive again and take a long time to be back (is a risk). So let's do it step by step, as I did all my tennis career."
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