Nadal Wins First Match at Chilean Open in Return to Competitive Tennis

Rafael Nadal is back in winning form…

The 26-year-old Spanish tennis star defeated Argentina’s Federico Delbonis 6-3, 6-2 on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals of the Chilean Open in his return to competitive tennis after a seven month hiatus due to an injured left knee.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal, ranked No. 1 in the tournament despite his long absence, is hoping to get back into the swing of things before the French Open, where he’ll attempt to win his eighth French Open title.

“For me, Roland Garros (French Open) is light years away,” he said. “All I see is doubles tomorrow and my singles again here on Friday.”

Nadal only won one point on clay in the first two games against Delbonis. But sfter falling behind 0-2, he broke back in the fourth game to tie it at 2-2, racing to chase down several shots in a long rally and showing no fear of re-injuring his knee. He was in control after that, wrapping up the set in 47 minutes.

Nadal breezed through the second set, cheered on by a sellout crowd of 4,500. The temporary stadium for the tournament has been increased by 1,200 seats for fans to see one of the sport’s biggest stars, playing for the first time in Chile.

The former No. 1 again faced questions about his knee after the match, despite saying Tuesday he was tired of talking about it.

“I have to be sure the knee answers well after a long time without playing at the top level of our sport,” he said. “If the recovery goes well and I am able to play week by week at 100 percent, and I am able to practice every day as much as I want — and that happens quick — then we’ll talk about ambitious objectives.”

If not, Nadal said he would have to rethink his game, and probably his knee treatment. So far he has avoided surgery.

“If that doesn’t happen, we’ll talk about different goals,” Nadal said. “Let’s see how things improve in the next couple of months, in the next couple of weeks. Let’s talk in a few weeks, in a few months.”

Nadal said he is playing with some discomfort, and his coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, said it would continue until the end of the month.

Nadal has fallen behind his main rivals — Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray — and now will be scrutinized as he attempts to win his eighth French Open, which starts in late May.

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