It’s funny how a Tennis player as accomplished as Rafael Nadal, with 10 Grand Slam titles, needs to prove himself over and over again, beginning another cycle in 2012. Currently playing in the Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament, Nadal is still suffering from a shoulder injury,which will keep him out for a while only after the Australian Open.

Weird. Nadal didn’t look good playing the ATP World Tour Finals, and the same shoulder injury was part of the reason. It kept him away from training, and obviously limited his ability on the court. Instead of giving it more time to heal, Nadal is playing in the Gulf, getting ready for the Australian Open. Maybe it’s the money, or the thought of missing a Grand Slam tournament, which has happened to him in 2009 (Wimbledon) is too much to bear.

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Personally, I think Nadal should skip the Australian Open if the pain is so bad. The risk of creating any long term damage is too big. He has just over two weeks before the Melbourne classic begins, and playing during the next 18 days, while getting him ready in terms of playing, might do more harm than good. Nadal has already broken down more than once during a Semi Final due to an injury.

I had a problem before London with my shoulder and I had to stop for about 10 days before the ATP finals. It felt better but again it resurfaced. In December, I did not have enough time to practice because of that.

Nadal’s plan is to take the time off from Tennis after the Australian Open and return for the Indian Wells tournament. The most important part of the season starts with Indian Wells and ends with Wimbledon, and this year it ends with the Olympics. If it’s six months of a pretty grueling schedule he has to look forward to, I’m not convinced Nadal is making the right choice right now.

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He’s probably thinking about how badly he wants to be number 1 again, and put 2011 behind him. It’s funny, because he did win one Slam, reach two more finals and win another Masters tournament while losing in four more finals. On a different playing field that might be considered a success. But no. Not after his wonderful 2010, not during a 2011 in which Novak Djokovic wasn’t far from perfection, and beat Nadal every time the two faced each other.

Nadal blames himself, mostly – Novak was incredibly dominant in 2011, but I have allowed my game to become too predictable. Does that mean he’ll change? Probably not. This is not the time to change many things. This is the time to keep playing well, to keep improving my tennis, I will just try and be competitive in all the tournaments. I was competitive in all the tournaments and was in three Grand Slam finals.

I find it hard to believe Djokovic will be as dominant in 2012, but he definitely has Nadal’s number right now, in terms of style and in the mental game. Not even a healthy shoulder will give Nadal the edge he needs if nothing in his game changes. It was good enough to beat almost everyone else last year, but not nearly enough to beat Djokovic.