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Ten things about Rafael Nadal's return to tennis

Rafael Nadal made his return to tennis in Chile
by Mark Hodgkinson
Friday 8 February 2013

The Spaniard has been playing a clay-court event this week in Vina del Mar in Chile, his first event since last summer's Championships at Wimbledon.

1. The former Wimbledon champion has disclosed that last summer - when he would follow up his victory at the French Open by crossing the Channel and losing in the second round on the grass to Lukas Rosol - he felt as though he was playing the best tennis of his career. "What was difficult was that my knee let go at the best moment of my career," the Majorcan said in an interview with L'Equipe. "In 2012, I was really playing better than previous years. The Australian Open final last year against Novak Djokovic, even if I lost, it was great. And I went on to win Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros. I was exploding on the court."
2. The New York Times article asked in a headline, 'Why is Rafael Nadal in Chile?' Below, the writer said, "like an opera singer coming back from vocal-chord surgery at a performance with the local community symphony, Nadal's hoping to make sure everything's in working order before he takes on a tougher crowd". 

3. His preparations for the tournament included an hour-long meeting with Chile's president, Sebastian Pinera. 
4. Will Nadal miss next month's hard-court tournaments in California and Florida? That would allow him to play only on clay all the way through to the French Open. Nadal, whose swing through the South American dirt is scheduled to take in tournaments in Brazil and Mexico, has again spoken of how his knees suffer on a hard court.
"Tennis is a very aggressive and demanding sport and obviously the knees suffer above all when you are playing on hard courts. On fast courts the movements are much more aggressive. When you are playing at your maximum you have to push your body to the limit. I'm prepared to accept that at the start my knee might not respond well and I may have to take it easy, mixing periods of play and rest for the first three months."
And yet Nadal will have to play on hard courts if he is to move up the rankings (he is currently fifth). "I don't intend to change my schedule by playing more on clay than I was before," Nadal said. "Why? Because if you want to become the first, second or third in the rankings, you have to play and win on hard courts."
5. Though Nadal lost the first two games of his first singles match in Chile - after a bye, a second-round encounter with Argentina's Federico Delbonis - he went on to win 6-3, 6-2. 

6. Nadal's uncle and coach, Toni, reported that his nephew "will feel some discomfort and lack of mobility until the end of the month". 

7. Nadal disclosed in Chile that he couldn't watch any of the Australian Open because of changes to the satellite TV channels available in Majorca. 

8. For now, Nadal is not thinking about the Parisian clay. "Roland Garros is light years away," he said. "Roland Garros is a very important event but I never think about it until I get there. It doesn't matter if I arrive ranked No.15, 20, 30 or 40. All that matters is I can play like I did before and my physical condition is 100 per cent. My target is to be able to compete at the highest level as soon as possible."  

9. Nadal is not bothered by suggestions that we are now in the Djokovic-Murray era, and that the Roger and Rafa Show has been pushed off stage. "My ego is calm. It doesn't bother me to hear that. It's not wrong. It's correct at the moment, isn't it? They are two superb players who have played the last two Grand Slam finals. It would imply an end to the Federer-Nadal rivalry, but who knows? I'm only one year older than Djokovic and Murray so perhaps now is not the time to bury me. Eight months ago, I was in an excellent position to become world No.1 again. Let's not forget too quickly. Now I will try to nudge myself into that Djokovic-Murray era." 

10. During his time away from tennis, Nadal had three blood tests and six urine tests. "That's a lot for somebody who was stuck at home unable to play." 

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