Alicante (Spain): Spanish world No. 1 Rafael Nadal said he will return to tennis action at a hard-court event in Acapulco, Mexico, in late February.
That means an encouragingly speedy recovery for the 16-time Grand Slam champion after he suffered a muscle tear in his right hip that forced him to retire in the fifth set of his quarter-final match at last month's Australian Open, reports Efe. Nadal, who serves as brand ambassador for Banco Sabadell, made those remarks to around 1,200 people during an event organized by that financial institution at the Auditorium of the Provincial Council of Alicante.
The tennis star said he planned to compete at Acapulco in the last week of February and then at two other hard-court tournaments in March -- the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and the Miami Open. But the Spaniard, who is almost universally regarded as the greatest clay-court player of all time, said he was focused on being at top form at the "most important time of year," referring to a series of major clay events - the Monte-Carlo Masters, the Madrid Open, the Italian Open and the French Open - played between mid-April and early June.
Referring to his disappointing exit at the Australian Open where he was forced to retire while trailing Croatia's Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 2-0, Nadal said the injury was just "a small tear, but it was impossible to keep going."
During the Banco Sabadell event, the 10-time French Open champion congratulated his main rival, 36-year-old Roger Federer, on defending his Australian Open title and increasing his record haul of Grand Slam titles to 20. Nadal said he and the Swiss had an excellent relationship and were able to put aside their rivalry when they step off the court. The 31-year-old Nadal also said he planned to be a part of Spain's Davis Cup campaign this year and believed the team, which takes on Great Britain in a first-round tie early next month, had an opportunity to capture a sixth title. But he said he could only take part if healthy.