Rafa returns from injury:

Spain’s Rafael Nadal has made a successful comeback from a knee injury after eight months out of the game. The former world number one teamed up with good friend Juan Monaco in the men’s doubles at the Chile Open in his comeback match this week.

The pair easily defeated Czech second seeds Frantisek Cermak and Lukas Dlouhy in straight-sets but Nadal admitted afterwards he was still in some pain. “My knee keeps hurting. But the fact I am playing here is a thing of joy,” he said.

It was Nadal’s first competitive match since his dramatic second round exit to Lukas Rosol at last year’s Wimbledon. He had planned to make a return at the Australian Open after recovering from tendonitis in his left knee but subsequently came down with a stomach virus.

Nadal said in his press conference after the match, “I am not 100 per cent, I need some weeks. 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.”

Given the recent controversies around the world concerning doping in sport, Nadal also made the point that he has been drug tested six times while being out of the game and endorsed the strict controls in place to ensure tennis was clean.

The 11-time grand slam champion is also competing in the singles draw of the clay court event at Vina del Mar. As the top seed, the 26-year-old enjoyed a first-round singles bye and opened his campaign with a win against Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis.

Nadal is also scheduled to play in the Brazil Open and Mexico Open later this month, which are also on his favoured clay surface. He will be hoping this will give him enough preparation time for the French Open, as he looks to add to his record haul of seven titles.

While the Spanish champion will no doubt be looking forward to renewing his rivalry with the Swiss master Roger Federer, there is currently a new order in men’s tennis Rafa will have to contend with. Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have contested the last two grand slam finals as well as the Olympic gold medal match. They will no doubt ensure the clay court maestro will have a battle on his hands if he is to again reign at Roland Garros.

While Nadal has seen his ranking drop to five during his injury lay-off, there is no doubt these four players are streets ahead of the field in the men’s game. Now that Nadal is back, there will surely be some epic semi-final encounters before the year is out.

Remember you can catch all the action of the men’s ATP tour at Strathfield Sports Club, where we love serving up our tennis!