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Fitness comes first for returning Nadal

December 22, 2012 12:41:37 UK

Eleven-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal has played down his chances of success at the Australian Open, insisting that being fully fit is his main priority.

The left-hander has not featured since losing in the second round of Wimbledon in June, but will be back on court in Abu Dhabi next week as he continues his fightback from knee problems.

It doesn't matter how I play tennis in the next month or month and a half.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal, who is 501.00 to win the Australian Open title in 2013, told The Times: "The only thing is the knee.

"The rest of the things - I can play better, I can play worse - it doesn't matter how I play tennis in the next month or month and a half.

"For me my goal is not Abu Dhabi, it is not Doha, it is not the Australian Open.

"My goal is to try to be fit, to be 100 per cent recovered with my knee and 100 per cent fit in my personal performance by Indian Wells and Miami in March, to try to arrive to Monte Carlo and the clay-court season in good shape."

Nadal, already a seven-time French Open winner, is 1.57 to triumph at Roland Garros again in 2013.

Meanwhile, former Wimbledon and US Open  finalist Vera Zvonareva of Russia has been ruled out of the Australian Open due to a shoulder problem.

The 28-year-old, who missed large parts of 2012 due to illness and injury, has seen her ranking slip to around the 100-mark as a result of her recent problems.

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