Rafael Nadal made a winning return to the men’s tennis circuit after a seven-month layoff because of a knee injury.
The 11-time Grand Slam singles champion paired with Argentina’s Juan Monaco to beat Frantisek Cermak and Lukas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-2 last night at the VTR Open in Vina del Mar, Chile.
Nadal, 26, hadn’t played competitively since a second-round upset loss to Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic at Wimbledon on June 28. He dropped to No. 5 in the ATP Rankings for the first time in eight years while out of action and will make his singles return today against Argentina’s Federico Delbonis at the clay-court tournament, where he is the top seed.
Nadal, the most dominant clay-court player of his generation with 36 titles including a men’s record seven French Open championships, has been suffering from a partially torn patella tendon and knee inflammation. Before making his comeback, he told reporters he will have to be patient.
“I have to take it slowly and be humble to know that things won’t be as good as they were before my injury,” Nadal said three days ago. “This is the injury that has sidelined me the longest, so maybe it will take me a bit longer to get back my confidence, the good feeling on court.”
During his absence, the former world No. 1 missed the London Olympics, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open. He’s scheduled to play in Brazil next week and in Mexico the following week as part of the buildup to his bid for an eighth title at Roland Garros. The French Open starts May 26.
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