2/9/13 2:20 AM | Johan Lindahl
Rafael Nadal could not be happier with his comeback to tennis after more than seven moths away with a knee injury.
The Spaniard, who now stands fifth in the world, knows he will have a battle to rise again in the rankings but is confident that with time and matches he can again achieve his world-beating form.
"I feel relieved and joyful, that's certain," the former world No. 1 told France's L'Equipe in Vina del Mar on the Chilean Pacific coast where he is playing an ATP event for the first times since a Wimbledon loss last June 28. "The theme of the moment is patience.
"I need to take it step by step and accept that I’m not going to be at my maximum level right away. I haven’t played in seven months. If I’m not humble, it’s not going to work. I’m not afraid because I know in what state my knee is in."
Nadal, who is by now well acquainted with doctors' surgeries and waiting rooms, said that he is confident that his dodgy left knee is coming back to full strength. "For three weeks, all the tests I have undergone have shown perfect results.
"The truth is that my left knee is in fantastic shape compared with the other one (laughs). I know now that if I run, I won’t risk torn tendons. That’s 'importantissime.' The doctors have promised me that. So, it’s alright, no anxiety. Even if the tendon still gives me pain."
Nadal is working slowly on returning to his lethal best by the time of the French Open in three months as he bids for an unprecedented eighth title at the Grand Slam that he has dominated. "Doctors tell me the (knee) pain should be gone by the end of February. I will regain my normal mobility on court. I just need to give my patellar tendon time to get used to intense efforts."
Nadal described his particular pain to the esteemed French sports daily. "I could feel it in the morning while getting up and in the afternoon while I’m eating or while hitting a backhand. My first two days in Chili were difficult. I was feeling a lot of pain and I didn’t have one good training session.
"Once I had pain nine days out of 10, then eight out of 10 and it’s getting less and less….But pain or not, the overwhelming feeling is the joy of being here, to train with the pros, to have a match, to play, to feel the competition."
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