Rafael Nadal is set to fall out of the top four and lose his spot as Spain's No. 1 to David Ferrer. (David Vincent/AP)
Looks like we'll see Rafael Nadal back on the court sooner than expected.
As confirmed by Christopher Clarey of The New York Times, Nadal accelerated his anticipated return to tennis by two weeks and plans to play the Brasil Open in Sao Paulo in early February.
Forced to withdraw from the Australian Open due to a stomach virus that disrupted his training schedule, Nadal had planned to return at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco, a clay-court event that begins Feb. 25. Training must be going well for Nadal to move up his return in hopes of competing in South America.
In the meantime, it looks like Nadal, who's fashioned himself a nice new haircut, has been hitting the gym with another fan favorite, Italy's Flavia Pennetta. The two are good friends going back to when Pennetta dated Nadal's friend and mentor Carlos Moya. She's been off the WTA Tour since last summer with a right wrist injury.
Rafael Nadal trains with Flavia Pennetta. (twitter.com/flavia_pennetta)