Nadal makes winning return after 7 months out

Updated 07 February 2013
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Nadal makes winning return after 7 months out

VINA DEL MAR, Chile: Rafael Nadal wants to stop talking about the inflamed left knee that kept him away from the ATP Tour for just over seven months until his doubles victory Tuesday with Juan Monaco at a little-known clay court tournament in Chile.
Nadal, whose knee problem has lingered despite on-going therapy, had not played since June 28 when he was upset in the second round of Wimbledon by qualifier Lukas Rosol.
Nadal and Monaco won easily in just over an hour at the VTR Open, defeating the Czech pair of Frantisek Cermak and Lukas Dlouhy 6-3, 6-2. Nadal’s practice sessions in Chile have lasted longer, and the first question centered on his knee — a sore subject with the Spaniard.
The former No. 1-ranked Nadal addressed the question for several minutes, and then said he wanted to drop the subject and concentrate on tennis as he begins a build-up to what could be his eighth French Open title.
“The knee — I said it when I got here. I would prefer not to keep talking about the topic,” Nadal said. “At the end of the day the doctors have said it’s OK. There is no risk of making it worse. My knee keeps hurting. But the fact I am playing here is a thing of joy.
“I am not 100 percent, I need some weeks,” he added. “If it hurts, it hurts and we’ll put up with it. I am here to play tennis, with or without pain. ... I’m happy to have played an official game, although it was doubles.”
Nadal opens his singles campaign Wednesday against Argentine Federico Delbonis, hoping to catch up to the other three of tennis’ Big Four — Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray.
The Spaniard has been almost unbeatable on clay, winning 93 percent of his singles matches — the highest percentage in the Open era.
Nadal has avoided surgery, and he suggested he hoped to continue on the same path.
“If one day it is worse, and one can’t compete at 100 percent, then it can’t be done,” he said.
Nadal showed quick reactions with a difficult backhand volley at the net to win the sixth game of the first set Tuesday. Nadal and Monaco broke in the next game, and Nadal held serve in the next to make it 5-3 en route to a first-set victory.
Nadal hit several powerful forehands at sharp angles to win points, and seemed at ease moving around the court. And he drew the usual whistles from female fans as he stripped off his shirt after the win.
“I need for the knee be stronger, to be more comfortable playing all out,” Nadal said. “There are days when the knee is not comfortable. ... Today I am in the second round of doubles and tomorrow I start in singles. I’m not going to speak more about the knee. What’s coming up is tennis, and that’s why I am here to try to play as well as I can.
“The more hours I am on the court, the better,” he added. “Today was important, but in another aspect it wasn’t so important. The most important was just to be here. There is no doubt that perhaps the result here is not the overriding thing. I’ll do all I can to win and play as well as I can.”
Nadal is a huge favorite to win in Chile. If he doesn’t, questions will follow him to the next two clay-court events in Brazil and Mexico — warmups for the French Open. But if he does win, the questions will also come up again at the next two stops in Latin America.
Toni Nadal, his uncle and coach, has said this year’s French Open will be much like Nadal’s first — meaning there will be nerves.
Others have noted that the weak field in Chile is much like Nadal would face in a sweep through the first week of the French Open.
Chile, without a top player since Fernando Gonzalez retired last year, has a new hope in 16-year-old Christian Garin.
Garin defeated Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-4 on Tuesday in the first round. He is only the fifth 16-or-under player to win in an ATP Tour event since 2000.

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What now for Saudi Arabia’s big four teams?

Updated 19 April 2018
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What now for Saudi Arabia’s big four teams?

  • Al-Hilal won their 15th top-flight title this season.
  • Big summer for Saudi Arabia football with the Green Falcons at the World Cup.

Now the Saudi Professional League season is over for another year Arab News can look back at their title tilts and what the big four clubs have to do over the coming months ahead of the next season.

 



AL-HILAL

Finished: Champions

Coaching situation: Ramon Diaz was in charge for much of the season, but was fired in February after setbacks in the Champions League.
Assistant Juan Brown did Okay in the final stretch, but a top-class coach could get more out of this team.

Squad priorities: A reliable goalscorer to support Omar Khribin and with veteran defender Osama Hawsawi leaving for pastures new, a replacement center-back with leadership qualities. Welcoming back the major stars — Carlos Eduardo, Khribin, Nawaf Al-Abed and Salem Al -Dawsari — will be a major boost.

Aim next season: Win the AFC Champions League

 



AL-AHLI

Finished: Second

Coaching situation: Sergiy Rebrov is out of contract at the end of June. His future is likely to depend on how the team fares against Al-Sadd in the second round of the AFC Champions League in May.

Squad priorities: There is not much wrong. The Jeddah giants were the highest scorers in the league last season and had the second best defense. Keeping star midfielder Leonardo fit will help as will a little cover in the center of defense. Star striker Omar Al-Somah fell out with the coach in a public way in the penultimate game of the season. It may be that one of them has to go. The Syrian has been player of the year for three years and has a longer contract than Rebrov.

Aim next season: Win the league. Maintain good performances in Asia.


 
AL-NASSR

Finished: Third

Coaching situation: Krunoslav Jurcic arrived in January and the former Croatian national team boss produced an upswing in results. May just be a temporary appointment and it needs to be sorted quickly.

Squad priorities: Looks good with the Saudi Arabia national team keeper, a strong center-back pairing of Omar Hawsawi and Bruno Uvini and the full-back position seemingly sorted with the January signing of Saad Suhail. They probably need a defensive midfielder and have to keep Junior Kabananga. The DR Congo striker has shown enough in his few weeks at the club to suggest that he could be a real star next season, especially with Leonardo pulling the strings behind him.

Aim next season: A genuine title challenge and getting through the play-offs into  the 2019 AFC Champions League.

 


AL-ITTIHAD

Finished: Ninth

Coaching situation: A bottom half finish is unacceptable for a team with Al-Itithad’s stature and history. Chilean coach Jose Luis Sierra may find that winning domestic cups is no substitute for challenging for the title.

Squad priorities: There is too much reliance on players such as Carlos Villanueva, a creative spark in the team, and Fahad Al-Ansari, the midfield engine, who are the wrong side of 30. The possible return of star winger Fahad Al-Muwallad will help, but an introduction of energy is needed.

Aim next season: Top three and, if the team wins the King’s Cup, a good showing in the 2019 AFC Champions League.