1/31/13 3:28 PM | Johan Lindahl
Rafael Nadal has confessed to pre-event nerves - and some lingering knee pain - as the world No. 5 flies to South America to resume his injury-interrupted career with a start at a low-key ATP event in Chile.
Nadal had a final hit at his Mallorca home base and then confessed: "I hope the knee responds well and that it tolerates the demands of professional competition. There are still days when it bothers me but it is evident that I will need time before the knee is used to top-level competition again."
The 26-year-old has not played for more than seven months and will try his knee on clay in Vina del Mar, Sao Paolo, Brazil, and Acapulco, Mexico.
He is hoping the joint holds up as he steps onto hard courts for a hit-and-giggle exhibition in New York in early March for World Tennis Day followed by true tests at the Masters 1000 pair at Indian Wells and Miami.
He will then presumably breathe a sigh of relief as the European clay court run to the French Open begins in April.
"I'm looking forward to competing again and taking part in a top-level tournament," said Nadal. "I'm looking forward to returning after seven months out, to training and coming up against the other players in Chile," he added.
Nadal has a wild card in Chile, where he will have a bye into the second round. He is among Spain's top four players who are missing Davis Cup play this weekend in Canada.
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