2/5/13 2:06 PM | Johan Lindahl
Rafael Nadal might easily become an inviting target for opponents as he returns to tennis after more than seven months away due to his lingering knee problems.
Three-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray believes that the one-time king of clay could well be vulnerable to rivals as he steps back into action over the next month at three smaller ATP events.
Nadal is beginning his comeback this week on clay at Vina del Mar, Chile after last competing at Wimbledon in late June. He begins after a bye against the winner from Argentines Guido Pella, ranked 92nd, or qualifier Federico Delbonis, the No. 116.
Murray said that while Nadal may take his time in returning to form after such a long absence, he believes the Spaniard will again become a dominant force in the sport. Nadal is starting with events in Chile, Brazil and Mexico.
"Expectation are high, people will expect him to do things straight away," said No. 3 Murray. "But it could take a number of weeks and months before he's back to his old self again. If he doesn't have a knee setback, he'll win some matches in south America, If he's physically OK by the French Open he will be in good shape."
Murray added that the Spaniard's aura as the king of clay might take an early battering if he needs time to get up to speed on court. "He might not have the same (aura) straight away. If he's not back to his highest level, he could possibly lose."
"But if he wins his first three tournaments, that changes everything, Guys will worry about him again," he said of the No. 5.
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