Rafael Nadal said he will take some time before deciding whether to travel to Australia for the first Grand Slam of next season after completing his comeback at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship with a defeat to Denis Shapovalov in Saturday's third-place playoff.
Nadal, 35, has been troubled by a long-term foot injury which forced him to end his 2021 season in August, so the Spaniard's participation in Abu Dhabi was the first time he had played any matches in nearly six months.
As the tournament's most successful ever player with five titles, MWTC is usually the chance for Nadal to fine-tune his game before the new season but his circumstances were markedly different this time around. After losing in Friday's semi-final to Andy Murray, Nadal was beaten by Canadian world No 14 Shapovalov in a third set champions tie-break 6-7, 6-3, 10-6.
However, results were always going to be of secondary importance as Nadal heads home to assess his fitness with less than one month before the Australian Open.
"I need to speak with my team," Nadal said when asked if he could confirm his participation at the Australian Open. "I can't guarantee 100 per cent. The plan is to go there and try my best in Australia.
"That’s my goal and that is the idea, but I need to go back and see how the body feels after these couple of days. I have some time to make this decision but let’s see. I will take it day by day. In this moment of my career and everything I went through, I need to think a lot about every movement."
Despite the defeats in Abu Dhabi, Nadal insisted that playing at MWTC has been a positive experience and has given him a good indication of the current state of his game and the work he still has ahead.
"Even when not in perfect condition, I was able to show a competitive level against good players," the 20-time Grand Slam champion sad. "There are many remaining things left to improve in matches but I still had my chances. So taken in that perspective it’s a very positive thing.
"But I need time. It’s been a long time. People think I last played in Washington, but I played those matches in Washington in very bad condition. After Roland Garros it was a disaster. My foot would not allow me to even practice or play the right way. It’s been six months since my last real, official match. The main thing is to be healthy enough to do the things I need to do."