'He's the ultimate fighter': Maria Sharapova reveals Rafael Nadal inspiration for injury comeback
Five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova hasn't competed since withdrawing from the St. Petersburg Open last January with a shoulder injury, which required surgery three weeks later.
The 32-year-old will return to grasscourt action at the Mallorca Open next week in a dress rehearsal for the July 1 opening round at Wimbledon.
The Russian was catapulted into fame when she won the Wimbledon championship as a teenager 15 years ago.
Her pursuit of regaining arguably the most prestigious Grand Slam tournament in tennis in the English capital next month was buoyed, she said, by Nadal's own injuries and subsequent victory in last week's French Open.
"He is the ultimate fighter and an amazing example of what you can achieve if you have the will and the passion for what you do," Sharapova said on Sunday.
"I've always admired the way he has fought through all the injuries he’s had and he’s the greatest example of that. The sport is so physical, especially the way he plays, but brings an optimistic perspective on his work that he can come back and be a champion. He is extremely motivated."
Sharapova's absense from the court has seen her world ranking plummet to 86th but now pain-free, she says that she finally feels she can express herself fully.
"The shoulder is doing well, I took my time in order to come back to my first event and feel that I have a really good chance at it," she said to Reuters.Also on rt.com ‘There will never be another Nadal’: Plaudits roll in as clay king Rafa seals 12th French Open
Sharapova admits that most won't "give her a shot" but Wimbledon is a tournament which so often rewards underdogs - though she admits that any chance she has is dependent on her shoulder holding up.
She is excited, she says, to resume her career after the injury, as well as a 15-month doping ban, but the real work starts now.
"With every match it will be a good test, but I need to get it out into the battlefield to test it. You can heal all you want but when you get back to your sport it’s a different ball game."