After around 7 months out Spain’s Rafael Nadal finnally made his long-awaited return to tennis after eventually recovering from a troublesome knee injury. His defeat to then world number 100 Lukas Rosol in the seocnd round at Wimbledon in June proved to be his last game up until now.
The Spanaird had picked up Patellar Tendonitus, or ‘Jumper’s Knee’. Any athlete can succumb to this, where the tendons in the knee are stretched over the small bones, and eventually begin to develop microscopic tears, but these build up, and eventually the tendons become inflamed and the entire knee can swell badly in severe cases; This can restrict the use of their legs and is also very painful. It is most common in people who take part in a variety of sporting activites, Nadal fits this criteria: As well as tennis, he is an enthusiastic golfer and aparently enjoys the odd kick-about too.
The return from injury had been dealyed a number of times. A nasty stomach virus halted the recovery and forced the injury-stricken left-hander to withdraw from this year’s Australian Open, which was the second consecuative Grand Slam that Rafa has now missed. His large amount of fans were understandably devasted about the news but, of course, were very jubilant when he made his return, read on to find out more about it.
The Vina del Mar event, or the Chile Open, is an ATP 250 event and is competed for on clay, the surface where Nadal is regarded as ‘the king of clay’ becuase of his incredible record on the surface throughout his career. Nadal was the only player ranked inside the top 10 entering, with seed number 2 Juan Monaco being the nearest at singles world number 15.
The 11-time Grand Slam champion brought high media attention to the tournament and started the event with a doubles game for his first game back. He competed with Argentina’s Juan Monaco to beat Czech second seeds Frantisek Cermak and Lukas Dlouhy in straight sets, 6-3 6-2, to make a superb return to action.
Back to the singles, where he also completed a winning reestablishment into the game after a bye to round 2. Argentine Federicio Delbonis was the victim of a 6-3 6-2 defeat to the Spanaird. His singles quarter-final match was to be played against his fellow countryman and world number 60 Daniel Gimeno-Traver. Ultimately he proved no match for the master on clay as he dispatched of his opponent in a straight sets victory, a comfortable 6-1 6-4.
The semi-final was, on paper, his toughest game since returning from the knee problem as he was drawn to pit his wits against world number 25 Jérémy Chardy. However it was a 6-2 6-2 sweep into the final for Nadal, his first final since last year’s French Open final. It was a straight forward win apart from faulting 3 times in a game in the first set. Then just Argentina’s world number 73 Horacio Zeballos stood in the 26 year old’s way of winning the Chile Open. Much to the surprise of the watching crowd and global audience, Zeballos came from a set down to mince the former world number 1 6-7 (2-7) 7-6 (8-6) 6-4. It was a rare defeat on clay for the king of clay, who only dropped 3 sets in last year’s clay season.
Meanwhile, he also managed to make the final in the doubles competition, with the once singles world number 10 Juan Monaco. Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi and Potito Starace emerged victorious in the final, winning 6-2 6-4, on the same day as Rafa’s singles final.
The next grand slam is the French Open, where Nadal is 7-time champion. I believe he’ll be back to his best for Roland Garros, which is 3 months and 14 days away (I’m not counting, I promise!). He is just unstoppable at his best on clay and while many have questioned whether he can get back to his best, there’s little doubt that he’ll be up there for that tournament, inbetween he has time to prepare with upcoming ATP World Tour events.