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Tennis | ATP

Rafael Nadal © Reuters

Nadal off to a winning start in Brazil



Spain's Rafael Nadal teamed up with Argentina's David Nalbandian to post a three-set doubles victory in the Brazil Open late on Tuesday.

The world No 5, back on a court after his defeat in the Vina del Mar Open in Chile on Sunday, and his partner won 6-3, 3-6, 11-9 in just 79 minutes over fellow Spaniards Pablo Andujar and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the first round of the ATP clay court event.

The third set was hard fought with Nadal and Nalbandian saving two match points before prevailing 11-9. The Spanish star was mobbed by adoring fans as he left the court.

The match started two hours behind schedule and Nadal, wearing a white knee brace, was greeted with thunderous applause when he appeared on the court in the 9 300-seat Ibirapuera gymnasium.

The winning duo was to play in the second round on Wednesday.

As the top seed, Nadal, an 11-time Grand Slam champion enjoyed a first-round singles bye and will open his singles campaign on Thursday.

He lost the singles and doubles finals on Sunday at his comeback event in Vina del Mar, Chile following a seven-month knee injury absence.

"I am a bit tired after a hard week in Chile. But it was positive. The process of recovery follows its course. As always I come here to do the best possible and hope that things turn out all right," Nadal told a news conference earlier on Tuesday.

Asked when he expected to be 100 per cent fit, he responded: "I cannot know the future. If my knee allows, I will do everything possible to be at my best.

"I am a player who plays with a lot passion, a lot of energy. I suppose that does not help the knee."

He said his worst moment during his seven-month absence was when he realised he could not compete for Spain and defend his title at the London Olympics.

"My long-term objective is to be in Brazil in 2016 (for the Rio Summer Olympics). I am going to work to arrive in good conditions at what are likely to be my last Olympics," he said.

Considered by many to be the best ever clay-court player, Nadal was back in Chile last week for the first time since a surprise second-round exit at Wimbledon in June.

Since then he has been sidelined by a torn tendon and inflammation in his left knee, with his return this year further delayed by a stomach virus.

Nadal, ranked No 5 in the world, is helping boost the prestige of the $455 775 Brazil Open, part of the Latin American clay court circuit that also includes Vina del Mar and the Mexico Open in Acapulco in which he will compete later this month.

The Spaniard won the Brazil Open in 2005 when it was held in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia state.

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