It’s been almost seven months since Rafael Nadal last played a tennis match, but now he’s put the first one behind him. Only a small tournament in Chile, only a doubles match alongside Juan Monaco, but they say the first cut is the deepest, and putting it behind him without pain and with a win is the best way to get back on the ATP Tour.
Last time Nadal played it was on June 28 at Wimbledon, losing to Lukas Rosol before going on an indefenite leave from the game due to his knee problems, which kept him out for the rest of the 2012 season and the Australian Open in 2013. He claimed it was some weird illness that kept him away from Melbourne, but it’s hard to believe that anything but worrying about his knee kept him from the first Grand Slam of the season.
His knees still hurt; they probably will anytime he plays tennis. Still, he seemed happy to be back on the court, on a clay court which is what he’ll focus on from now on, knowing it’s the least damaging to his condition. He just isn’t happy talking about his knees, instead of talking about the win and his tennis, winning 6-3, 6-2 against the Czech pair of Frantisek Cermak and Lukas Dlouhy.
I said it when I got here. I would prefer not to keep talking about the topic. At the end of the day the doctors have said it’s OK. There is no risk of making it worse. My knee keeps hurting. But the fact I am playing here is a thing of joy.
I am not 100 percent, I need some weeks. If it hurts, it hurts and we’ll put up with it. I am here to play tennis, with or without pain. I’m happy to have played an official game, although it was doubles.
Nadal isn’t in Chile just to play doubles. He’s also in the VTR Open to compete in the single’s again Argentine Federico Delbonis. Up until this point in his career, Nadal has won more than 93% of his matches on clay, the highest percentage of the open era. He looked good in the match, moving easily on the court, not showing any physical difficulty besides the expected rust.
Being gone for so long from the courts doesn’t mean he isn’t the big favorite to win in Chile, and if he won’t, questions and pondering will be following him as he continues his comeback in Brazil and Mexico. The main goal? Being ready for the French Open, a tournament he has lost in only once.