Tennis fans' hopes of seeing Rafael Nadal back to his best and challenging for the Australian Open have been given a huge boost after the former world no.1 announced he is back in training.
The Spaniard has been out of action since being forced to endure surgery on his inured appendix, a problem which prevented his participation at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals.
While it was the appendicitis that ended his 2014 season, we haven't really seen the best of Nadal since the summer. His latest injury woe came right as he returned from a longer-term wrist issue.
However, the 28-year-old will be hoping for a clean bill of health in time for Christmas and the new year; fans will now share that hope after he took to Facebook with some encouraging news.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion posted a picture of himself back with a racquet in-hand and captioned it: 'Very happy to be training again and excited to prepare the next season.'
Nadal will no doubt be relishing the challenge of getting back on-court with the likes of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, especially as both his rivals enjoyed a fruitful few months during his injury lay-off.
Djokovic stole Nadal's world no.1 spot at Wimbledon. The Serb went all the way while the Spaniard was forced out early-on by Nick Kyrgios - it would prove to be the last time we saw the Majorcan-born star for some time as his wrist injury took prominence.
At least the stylish left-hander can enjoy some more rest while watching and scouting his rivals while they take part in the International Premier Tennis League. Nadal was due to play for the Indian Aces before being forced to withdraw and replaced by Federer. Djokovic, meanwhile, is due to make his first appearance for the UAE Royals soon.
Despite an inevitable eagerness to get back in the hunt, Nadal realises that he might have to bide his time: "It's always a bit tough starting off after a few difficult months, without any continuity, and after the last month and half without being able to play any sport and the appendicitis," he told a Spanish newspaper.
SLOW & STEADY
"What I have to do this month is to get myself fit physically, progress my tennis as much as possible and lay the foundations to start well in Abu Dhabi and in Doha."
The Australian Open, which starts in January, is actually Nadal's worst Slam when taking into account titles won.
Of his 14 major titles, which sees him joint-second with Pete Sampras on the all-time list just behind Federer on 17, just one of those has come Down-Under in Melbourne - and that was way back in 2009.
His last two appearances on the hard courts earlier this year and in 2012 - he was absent in 2013 - both ended in final defeats. Stanislas Wawrinka gained his maiden glory most recently, while two years Djokovic won a five-set classic.
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