Christmas is over and for tennis fans we know what that means - the tennis players are leaving the wintery weather and heading for the sun drenched land down under! And even though New Years Day is still close to a week away, top names will be dusting off their racquets and getting in their groove to prepare for the important first major of the year, beginning in a little over two weeks time.
Many have been much anticipating Rafael Nadal's return to the court after a six month hiatus. His plan was to play at the Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament to try to shake off the rust and get himself slowly back into form in what is a prestigious event, yet doesn't count for any points on the tour. However, he was ordered by his doctor to withdraw after catching some form of stomach virus. He is still scheduled, at this point, to take part in next week's 250 level tournament in Doha. Still participating in the exhibition, which begins the 27th of December, will be top players Djokovic, Murray, Ferrer, Berdych, Tipsarevic and now Almagro in Nadal's place. Noticeably absent from the event this year is Roger Federer, who reportedly was not asked to participate as he "hasn't won the event before."
Speaking of Federer, he is choosing not to play a warm-up event to the Australian Open this year, preferring to spend the lead-up in a large block of practice time instead, which will hopefully pay off for him, as he said he didn't have enough time to practice in the busy 2012 season. Given that he also played six matches this month in his South America tour, hopefully this has also kept him somewhat in form.
There are several tournaments leading up to the AO, one of them the Hopman Cup, which is a fun no-points event played between countries, one man and one woman playing for their country, also with a mixed doubles match thrown in. Some notable participants are Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic playing for Serbia, while Venus Williams pairs with John Isner for the U.S. There are also several small tournaments for both men and women individually in such places as Brisbane, Chennai and Sydney to name a few.
With a longer off-season this year, it actually felt pretty short to me given that there were the fun events from Federer's South American exhibition tour. That really helped to get through what would have been a very long stretch with no tennis. My intention to watch several of the past Federer grand slam wins didn't end up happening as much as I anticipated, so at this point I am itching for some competitive tennis once again. I can't wait to see all the scenarios begin to play out for the 2013 season ahead.