Many fans were happy to see Rafael Nadal back on the tennis court on Tuesday. His presence was missed at the Australian Open, and any sight of one of the world's most popular players is a plus.
In a doubles affair with friend Juan Monaco, the pair defeated Frantisek Cermak and Lukas Dlouhy 6-3, 6-2 at the VTR Open in Chile. That was a good start, but his 6-3, 6-2 win in singles action over Federico Delbonis on Wednesday was an even better sign of things to come.
Returning to the court and winning was nice on Tuesday, but the true test for Nadal's problematic knee came in Wednesday's singles match.
Covering the full court alone puts the knee through the rigors needed to make Nadal confident or doubtful about his ability to compete on a high level.
With an easy straight sets victory over Delbonis, Nadal should emerge from this with only positives.
The doubles match was just the first public aspect of his rehabilitation, playing in a singles match was the next step.
Nadal knows how competitive the men's tennis landscape has become over the last year. Andy Murray has become a legitimate threat to win every Grand Slam after winning the U.S. Open and capturing a gold medal in the London 2012 Olympics.
Novak Djokovic is still proving he is the world's best player; most recently, he captured the Aussie Open title in January. Roger Federer simply will not ride off into the sunset, he reached the semifinals in Melbourne after winning Wimbledon in 2012.
Nadal must be on top of his game if he hopes to regain his place in the top two or three spots in men's tennis.
The straight sets win over Delbonis should give him the confidence he needs to trust the knee.
With a few more outings like this, Nadal will be ready to defend his French Open crown at Roland Garros on May 26.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!