2/7/13 2:16 PM | Johan Lindahl
Rafa Nadal lost his first service game but rallied in customary fashion as he made a return to ATP tennis after seven months out with knee problems which are still not completely healed to his satisfaction.
Nadal reached the quarter-finals in Vina del Mar, Chile, an ATP 250 event which has never attracted such attention.
Nadal is playing in South America for the first time in eight years and has been understandably packing out the stadium as he competes in singles and doubles. He won his singles over Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis 6-3 6-2 after a bye.
"I feel happy to be playing singles again. It's been an important day for me," Nadal told local media. "Thanks for supporting me. I'd never dreamed of a comeback like this," he added in front of an ecstatic crowd. It was a tough start. Federico played really well and forced me to run a lot."
Nadal is taking a wait-and-see approach with his troublesome left knee; his previous ATP match was a Wimbledon second-round loss last June. "I'm happy the knee responded well," said Nadal. The 26-year-old is planning two more Latin events in Brazil and Mexico before a big-money hard-court exhibition in New York on March 4.
Showing intentions to then step onto the American hard courts, his name appeared on the entry list for the Miami Masters in mid-March, which follows Indian Wells in California.
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