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Rafael Nadal injury: Return unknown, hints at shutting down season

Rafael Nadal Rafael Nadal has not played since a second-round loss at Wimbledon. (Getty Images)

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Mail, Rafael Nadal reiterated his lack of certainty about his return to the ATP Tour. But with the season-ending World Tour Finals a little more than a month away, Nadal's comments, while still leaving open the door for a comeback this year, hint more toward shutting down his 2012 season:

"I hope you see me in Australia," says Nadal, who is in the Spanish capital to promote his involvement with PokerStars. "That is the biggest goal for me, to come back just before then in Qatar, but I cannot say for sure it is going to happen.

"The only thing is to recover well. I want to be 100 percent when I come back. I don’t want to keep playing every day with doubts, not knowing if my knee is going to answer all the questions."

Mike Dickson reported that Nadal has yet to return to the practice courts, instead enduring a daily rehabilitation routine that involves strengthening exercises and swimming. On the whole, Rafa sounds positive about his rehab efforts and his goal to be 100 percent healthy is the right one. At this stage in his career, with all that he's accomplished, playing while compromised in a game that advances in its physicality year after year is untenable.

But perhaps the most interesting admission from Nadal is his willingness to adjust his schedule to play more clay-court tournaments. Considering he plays a full schedule during the European clay-court season, this would mean a detour down to South America in February and March to participate in a series of smaller events known as "The Golden Swing."

The 11-time Grand Slam winner has been vocal throughout his career about the physical toll of playing the majority of the year on hard courts, and while two of the four Slams are played on the surface, Nadal is clearly entering into a phase of his career where health and longevity weigh heavily on his mind:

"It’s not going to change for me and my generation. Hard courts are very negative for the body. I know the sport is a business and creating these courts is easier than clay or grass, but I am 100 percent sure it is wrong. I may have to play more on clay than before but there aren’t that many options."

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