Rafael Nadal’s knee held up for a third straight day, and if he keeps winning it will be getting double the workout over the weekend.
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The Spaniard teamed with Juan Monaco to reach the doubles semifinals at the VTR Open with a 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory over Guillaume Ruffin and Filippo Volandri on Thursday, his third match in three days after being away from the game for seven months with an ailing left knee and a stomach virus.
Nadal will play fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver in the singles quarterfinals on Friday, and then faces the prospect of playing two matches a day over the weekend. Although that’s exactly the type of test he’d been looking for as he tries to get his body back up to the level where he can challenge the likes of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray again.
Nadal and Monaco addressed the crowd on the court after winning, but after giving four news conferences since arriving in Chile, the Spaniard didn’t offer one on Thursday.
”I’m very happy to play again and enjoy things here in Chile,” Nadal said. ”It’s a real pleasure playing with a friend.”
Standing alongside, Monaco added: ”I’m happy to be able to help at his side.”
The former No. 1-ranked Nadal moved easily around the court, showing no signs his left knee was bothering him.
”He is worrying about his knees, he’s worried about his health. He’s worried about getting back to a good competitive level,” his spokesman Benito Perez-Barbadillo said.
”He’s not worried in a negative way,” he added. ”What he cares about is to be healthy and be ready to be competitive at every level he plays and to be at the same level as he was playing before.”
Nadal has said it may take months to get back to that level and, despite winning seven French Open titles, he said he feels like that event in May is still ”light years” away.
Nadal won his last of eight doubles titles last year with Mark Lopez in Indian Wells. He has won 50 titles in singles – 11 in Grand Slams.
Nadal is being treated like a rock star in Chile, where he had never played until this week. News stories have turned up some distant relatives in the South American country, and papers are picking up every flattering word he says.
”I feel like just another Chilean,” he said Wednesday – a quote that showed up in the headlines of several Chilean newspapers.