ABU DHABI • Rafael Nadal is confident he will be "100 per cent" fit when the Australian Open starts in less than three weeks' time despite enduring yet another tough battle with injuries over the past few months.
The world No. 2 had to pull the plug early on his season and has not played since a knee problem forced him to retire during his US Open semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro in September.
He underwent surgery on his ankle to remove an intra-articular loose body last month and resumed training only two weeks ago.
The Spaniard will dip his toes back into competition at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition in Abu Dhabi, where he faces Kevin Anderson in his opener today. The South African beat South Korea's Chung Hyeon 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-1 yesterday.
He told reporters yesterday: "I started two weeks ago and of course, doing the things step by step and I have time to be ready for Melbourne at my 100 per cent.
"It's going to be good to have some matches before, but I'm confident that I'm going to arrive in Melbourne with the right situation."
The 32-year-old retired during two of the four Grand Slams this year, but still won a record-extending 11th French Open crown.
There will be no letting up for the 17-time Major winner, who is keen to launch yet another comeback despite his injury woes.
He added: "The second part of the year has been tough in terms of injuries but that happens and that's part of my tennis career too.
"I know at the beginning, you always have tough pains in the body that normally, you don't have.
"But I have experience in all of this... just trying to be positive with every improvement and that way, normally, you get the right point."
Joining Nadal in Abu Dhabi is Serena Williams. The former world No. 1 made her first on-court appearance yesterday since losing the US Open final.
Speaking at a press conference, she called the new changes to the Special Ranking rule introduced by the WTA for next year as "great" and believes the move will encourage more players to take a break from the tour to have children, then come back to resume their careers.
Under the new rules, returning mothers who have a special ranking that would earn them a seeded position can be drawn as an "additional seed" at tournaments, meaning they would avoid facing a seed in the opening round. This change also ensures that no seed will get bumped as a result of a returning mother given a protected seeding.
"Women that are younger can go out there and have kids and not have to worry about it and not have to wait till the twilight of their years to have children. It's a really great rule."
5th place play-off (7pm), s-finals (9pm & 11pm) - StarHub Ch201