Rafael Nadal 'feeling good' as he prepares for Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi
Spanish world No 2 is bidding for a record-extending fifth title at the pre-season tournament at Zayed Sports City
Rafael Nadal has said he is "feeling good" physically as he prepares to return to action next week at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) in Abu Dhabi.
The 17-time major winner has not played a competitive match since retiring hurt during his US Open semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro in September due to knee pain.
A further abdominal injury prevented the Spaniard returning before the end of the 2018 season, and in the off season he has had surgery on an ankle problem.
But Nadal, 32, has revealed he is back on the practice court and is pleased with how he is shaping up for the 2019 campaign, with his participation in the MWTC – entering its 11th edition – key to his preparations.
"I am currently practicing and getting ready for the start of the season," he said ahead of the six-player tournament staged at Zayed Sports City’s International Tennis Centre. "Feeling good at the moment."
Nadal will face the winner of the first-round match between defending champion Kevin Anderson and Hyeon Chung in the semi-finals on December 28.
It will be an early sign of what kind of shape Nadal’s game is in after an impressive 2018, which while limited by injury, saw him win the French Open for a record 11th time and win five titles in total.
Reflecting on his year, which also saw Nadal reach the semi-finals of Wimbledon and the US Open, he said: "I believe I had a good season besides the injuries.
"When I was fit to play I managed to play well and get good results. So in that regard I think it was a very successful season, I played nine tournaments and finished No 2 in the world."
The high point of a year in which he only lost four times was his record-extending success at Roland Garros, where he dropped only one set on his way to the title, including a one-sided win over Dominic Thiem in the final.
Understandably, Nadal has a strong affinity for the grand slam in Paris.
"Roland Garros is the most important tournament of my career,” he said. “Having managed to win there 11 times makes it really special for me.
"I love playing in Paris and always felt that Roland Garros was that special place to play."
Nadal began 2018 as world No 1, but a combination of his physical setbacks and the renaissance of Novak Djokovic means it is the Serbian who now leads the way in the ATP rankings.
Nadal could meet Djokovic in the MWTC final on December 29 provided he gets through his semi-final against either Thiem or Karen Khachanov.
The pair have had a long and enduring rivalry, playing each other 52 times on the ATP Tour, with Djokovic leading 27-25, and Nadal admits the 31 year old has consistently been one of his toughest opponents.
"Novak proved he can be the best and a very difficult opponent," he said. "He managed to come back and he is always a very very difficult player to play against and even more to beat.
"They are always very intense matches and he is a player that covers very well all angles of the court. Definitely one of the biggest rivals anyone could have had in tennis."
Tickets for the MWTC start at Dh100 for adults, while children can enter free on the opening day. For more information, visit www.mubadalawtc.com.
Updated: December 20, 2018 10:28 AM