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Nadal keeping expectations down ahead of return

ESPN staff
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Rafael Nadal will return to competitive action in February © Rafael Nadal
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Rafael Nadal will be focusing on fitness, not form, when he makes his return to competitive action following seven months on the sidelines.

Nadal is due to return to the ATP Tour at the start of February, after missing over half a year due to damage to his left knee.

The Spaniard has not played in a professional event since losing to Lukas Rosol in the second round of Wimbledon last year - while ill-timed illness prevented him from making his comeback ahead of the year's first grand slam, the Australian Open.

Nadal is now intending to return with three clay court tournaments in South America - the Vina del Mar in Chile on February 4, followed by the Brazil Open a week later and the Mexico Open at the end of the month.

The 26-year-old believes getting through all three tournaments without a flare-up of his knee problems will give him a solid foundation for the rest of 2013.

"Well I am going to play (after) a long time in a tennis tournament, professional tennis tournament, after seven months," Nadal told reporters on Wednesday. "The motivation, the illusion is big, so very happy to be back in the competition but just you know, with patience to know how the knee will answer after a long time without that top level.

"I will need a few weeks to see how the things improve, but the most important thing for me is if I can support the pain of the knee. If I can play these three tournaments in a row then I think it will work very well for me because I will have three important weeks to prepare for the rest of the season."

Nadal has historically dominated clay court tournaments, but insists he is not necessarily expecting to be victorious at any of his three comeback events - despite also making a switch to a new racket.

He said: "I know the first three weeks are going to be very difficult, in terms of results, but I am going to try everything.

"I will need a few weeks to see how things improve."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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