Injured Nadal hopes to resume practice soon

Rafael Nadal is eager to trade in his backstroke for his

backhand.

Swimming as part of his rehabilitation from a left knee injury,

Nadal said he has been more encouraged recently about his progress

and hopes to resume practice soon. He didn’t rule out playing next

month in the ATP World Tour Finals or Davis Cup final, but added

that such a quick return would be difficult.

”I don’t want to put any goals to play a tournament,” Nadal

said Tuesday. ”I want to go day by day. I go every day to the gym

and the swimming pool to continue with my recovery. I am trying to

not think that far.”

Nadal spoke from his home in Mallorca during a conference call

to promote his participation in an exhibition in New York in March.

He has also said he’ll enter an exhibition in Abu Dhabi in late

December.

The 11-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t played since losing in

the second round of Wimbledon in June. A partially torn patella

tendon forced him to miss the Olympics, where he was the defending

gold medalist, and the U.S. Open, where he was the 2010 champion

and 2011 runner-up.

After deciding against surgery, Nadal was at first discouraged

about how he responded to his rehabilitation regimen.

”I am feeling a little bit better now than the first couple of

months,” he said. ”It has been very, very tough for me because I

feel my knee didn’t improve in the right direction, but today is

something different. The last couple of weeks the improvement of my

knee is something I really can feel.”

Because of his long layoff, Nadal figures he’ll likely need to

hit balls for several weeks at least before he returns to

competition. The biggest remaining events this year are the ATP

World Tour Finals in London Nov. 5-12 and Spain’s Davis Cup final

against the Czech Republic Nov. 16-18.

”I will need a period of time of practice,” he said. ”I don’t

know if that will take a few weeks or one month and a half.”

Nadal said he watched ”a few matches” during the U.S. Open and

felt bad he was unable to take part.

”That’s the sport,” he said. ”That’s the negative part of our

life.”

Nadal, 26, has battled recurring knee trouble for years and

finds hard-court matches especially difficult. But he said he can’t

curtail his playing schedule if he wants to keep contending for a

top ranking.

”I can make a few adjustments, but not much,” he said. ”It’s

very difficult to think about a completely different calendar for

me.”