10 Days ’til Rafa…and some other stuff.

Well, it’s finally official – Rafael Nadal confirmed last week that he’ll return to the game December 27th during the Mubadala World Tennis Championshiop in Abu Dhabi. The exhibition tournament will feature six top players, including Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. Rafa hasn’t played since losing in Wimbledon’s second round to Lukas Rosol. Word is, Nadal has also been offered an appearance fee of over $1-million to play Vina del Mar in Chile starting February 4th, the week after Davis Cup first round play.

Congrats to Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams. Both were honored last Tuesday as the International Tennis Federation’s 2012 world champions. Novak won the honor last year, as well – and Serena’s won the honor two other times before. Bob and Mike Bryan were honored as mens doubles world champions for the ninth time in the past ten years. Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci were named the womens doubles world champions. Keep an eye on Taylor Townsend of the U.S., she was named junior world champ.

…and the future of American tennis looks bright: Madison Keys (Rock Island, Illinois) and Ryhne Williams (Knoxville, Tennessee) both won wild-card berths for the upcoming Australian Open.

Last week, Kim Clijsters said farwell to the game (again) with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Venus Williams at a special exhibition in Antwerp. It was a special event for 13,000 fans to say thanks for supporting her remarkable career.

Andy Murray’s working Lendl for a long-term deal. How could you not? With Ivan’s influence, Andy finally leapt two huge hurdles this year – defeating Federer when it counted (for Olympic Gold) and winning his first Major at the U.S. Open (defeating Novak Djokovic).

Thanks to Mother Nature, the U.S. Open Men’s Final has been held on Monday for five consecutive years…

Rain in Ashe

and now, the Monday final is officially part of the schedule. The Women’s Final has been moved to Sunday, allowing for an extra day of rest between the semi’s and the finals for both the guys and girls. Plus, Super Saturday remains intact, keeping CBS and their sponsors happy. Base prize money also goes up by $4-million in 2013 – good year to be an overachieving tennis player.

All of that said, the ATP – the governing body of men’s tennis – is opposed to moving the Mens Final to Monday: “The ATP and its players have made it clear to the US Open that we do not support a Monday final. We strongly believe the US Open should keep a similar schedule to the other Grand Slams, with the men’s semifinals completed by Friday and the final on Sunday. It is unfortunate the US Open response did not reflect our views on this issue and the ATP and its players will continue to pursue this matter in its discussions with the USTA.” And they’re not happy with the boost in prize money either, saying it doesn’t go far enough.