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Rafael Nadal Image Credit: AFP

Abu Dhabi: Rafael Nadal’s ability to rise from the ashes should be used as a case study for generations of athletes to come.

The berserker-grinder style of play has brought the Spaniard to his knees a staggering 13 times in his career spanning 15 years but each time, he bounced back with a vengeance.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion was out of action since sustaining a knee injury during his US Open semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro in 2018.

The comeback attempt was also hampered with problem with his abdomen ahead of the Paris Masters and with that, he had to bring down the curtains on his season.

The 32-year-old will be back on the road to redemption with the Mubadala Tennis Championship, starting on December 27 (Thursday) and the former world No. 1 says that is he not finished yet and is good to go.

“Things are going well so far, many thanks for asking. I’m doing the normal things to get back on track and at this point doing a good pre-season so that I can have a good start of the year. Fingers crossed,” Nadal told Gulf News in an exclusive email interview.

What gives Nadal such tremendous resolve and will to keep coming back despite these repeated injury woes?

“I love the competition and love to play at the most important tournaments of the world. That keeps me going,” says Nadal, who is well aware that every setback means double the effort in coming back to peak form.

“I believe the will to compete and play is what moves everything else around me,” says Nadal, whose official start to the 2019 season will be from Brisbane in the first week of New Year.

He has also chosen to reduce the number of tournaments for the coming season so that he can recover well and be in the best of shape, especially for the major events.

The Abu Dhabi exhibition event will give the Spanish ace the opportunity to know where he stands at the beginning of the season and the presence of some high profile players, including Novak Djokovic make the event an ideal test.

“Yes, it (Mubadala) has always been an important tournament for me since it is the best way to prepare the start of the season in Australia,” says Nadal, who is aiming to regain top form before the first Grand of the season — the Australian Open.

“I hope so and that’s what I am working hard for. Things so far are going well,” says Nadal, who will be meeting the winner of Kevin Anderson vs Hyeon Chung in his opening match. The fans will be then hoping for that dream final between him and Djokovic in the short and sweet event in capital. Nadal, who has done and seen it all, is also not surprised to see the way Djokovic came back to regain the top spot after he missed most part of the 2017 season with an elbow injury.

Djokovic made a fourth-round exit at the Australian Open and then came the biggest blow of losing to world No. 72 Marco Cecchinato in the French Open quarter finals. The Serbian ace then showed a tremendous turnaround to get the better of Nadal in the Wimbledon semi-finals before beating Kevin Anderson in the final. The world No. 1 followed it up with the US Open before crashing out to Alexander Zverev in the ATP Tour Finals.

“He (Djoko) had an amazing second half of the season, in particular from Wimbledon onwards. Not a big surprise for me but maybe some people might think differently,” said Nadal, who has won the Mubadala tournament in 2010, 2011, 2016 twice (in January and December).