• ATP Tour

Melbourne exhibition trying to lure Nadal

ESPN staff
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Rafael Nadal is set to return to action in the New Year © PA Photos
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Rafael Nadal could put the finishing touches on his Australian Open preparations at the Kooyong Classic tennis tournament in Melbourne after organisers confirmed they had been in contact with the world No. 4.

Nadal is set for a return to action next season having been sidelined since June with a knee injury.

Nadal has previously started his season in the Middle East at the lucrative Qatar Open, but tournament director Colin Stubs is hopeful a guarantee of three competitive matches on the same Plexicushion Prestige courts used at Melbourne Park will tempt the Spaniard.

"We're in touch with the top four," Stubs said. "Nadal's a possibility and that'd be something special for us because he's never played here."

Juan Martin Del Potro is currently the highest-ranked player signed up to the invitational event, with another top-ten player in Janko Tipsarevic also confirmed. The highly-rated youngsters Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori are both in the field, as well as home favourite Lleyton Hewitt.

Juan Monaco and Marcos Baghdatis will also play in the eight-man field, but Stubs has left the final spot open in the hope of luring Nadal for the tournament which begins on January 9.

Hewitt echoed Stubs' sentiments and said Nadal would be guaranteed a warm welcome at Kooyong.

"I like Rafa, I get along well with Rafa. It'd be nice to play him,'' Hewitt said. ''Plus … he's my son Cruz's favourite player, so he'd be happy to see him close up again. He got [Nadal's] autograph at Wimbledon in the locker room.''

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who triumphed at the ATP World Tour Finals in London on Monday, is scheduled to play in the Hopman Cup in Perth, while Andy Murray has confirmed his intention to defend his Brisbane title.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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