Rafael Nadal is keeping his comeback predictions low-key as he prepares to return to tennis, which could occur as early as this month.

The 11-time Grand Slam winner gave few specifics as he spoke with Spanish radio with the number four far from sure about the state of his performance in the Australian Open, which begins on January 14.

Nadal did not mention reports that he is signed for the rich Abu Dhabi exhibition from December 27, which would — if he plays — be his first match in six months.

The 26-year-old had to drop from competition because of chronic knee injuries after losing in the Wimbledon second round on June 28 and has not been on court since.

“I’d like to return in January, but I’m not expecting to win the Open,” Nadal told Spanish radio, “In the first events back, I won’t worry about the results.” Nadal said that if he drops to even 15th in the rankings that would not be a worry. He did hint at a goal, though, saying he wanted to be fit by the time he plays in Monte Carlo on his beloved clay, the event that starts the run-up to Roland Garros, which he won for a record seventh time in June.

Nadal has been dealing with a partial tear of a left patella tendon and inflammation of the fat pad on that knee.

He said he is looking long-term.

“I’m pleased with the recovery,” he said in the interview. “It’s going well. I want to be at 100 per cent for Monte Carlo and the French Open.”

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