Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal celebrates a victory with Argentine Juan Monaco (not in frame) during their ATP Vina del Mar tournament doubles match against Czech Republic's Frantisek Cermank and Lukas Dlouhy on Tuesday. Photo: AFP
Spain's Rafael Nadal launched his return from a seven-month injury break by teaming with Argentina's Juan Monaco for an emphatic doubles victory in the ATP clay court event here on Tuesday.
The return of the world number five, playing his first tournament since he was beaten in the second round at Wimbledon by Czech journeyman Lukas Rosol in late June, is the focus of attention at the 410,200-dollar tournament.
In a warm-up for his long awaited singles match on Wednesday, Nadal teamed with Monaco to post a 6-3, 6-2 victory in just 65 minutes over second seeds Frantisek Cermak and Lukas Dlouhy in the first round of the doubles.
As the top seed, the 11-time Grand Slam champion enjoyed a first-round singles bye and will open his singles campaign with a second-round clash against Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis.
Delbonis beat compatriot Guido Pella 2-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/1).
"It was a great feeling to play again and I'm very happy for doing it with a friend like Monaco in a great atmosphere that we had on the court," Nadal said.
"In doubles the effort is always less. We will see how it goes in singles and how my physical condition is."
Nadal, who will be 27 in June, has been careful to play down expectations, saying he still has some pain from his troublesome knees and doesn't expect to immediately rediscover his old winning ways in his first tournament back.
The Vina del Mar event is a starting point for a clay court season that culminates with the French Open in Paris starting in May.
"My aim is to compete courageously and hopefully the knee will stand up to it," Nadal said this week.
Nadal had been due to return to action at the notoriously physical Australian Open in January, but pulled out due to a viral condition.