Rafael Nadal spent seven months away from tennis while he recovered from a knee injury. Unfortunately, it is still an issue.
The Spanish star made his return to the court in the beginning of February at the ATP VTR Open in Chile. He reached the finals but fell to Horacio Zeballos in a pretty big upset.
While this loss was disappointing, he was able to turn it around in a hurry. He immediately traveled to Brazil to participate in the ATP Brasil Open, which he won easily.
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Although he still had not faced a top player, he was finally starting to move around the court well as he tried to get back into his old form. In addition, his ability to participate in back-to-back tournaments was a good sign for his rehab process.
He continued his tour of the Americas this week as he began the ATP Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco with a first-round win over Diego Sebastian Schwartzman. Nadal should face some tough competition in David Ferrer and Stanislas Wawrinka, but he is still the favorite to win.
Unfortunately, the positive momentum appears to be coming to a halt. According to ESPN, the star player might pull out of next week's Indian Wells tournament. Nadal told the media:
My intention is to go to Indian Wells. This is the truth because I love this tournament and the priority is to play. But if I don't feel comfortable playing and decide to wait to play on the hard courts, that's how it will be and I'll rest for the clay-court season (in Europe). But today I can't answer.
I said the truth. I don't know if I'm going to go or not. It will depend on how I feel every day and every week.
While Nadal did not specifically say whether he would play in the upcoming event, the fact that he is not sure should be concerning on its own. It means that he is completely uncertain about how he will feel on any given day.
He went on to say that "some days are better than others" with his knee, showing that it will continue to be an issue.
The talented player was expected to be a little rusty and take it slowly in his recovery. If he had scheduled some time off, there would not be an issue.
However, the knee is obviously still bothering him if he does not know when he will be able to play.
Fortunately, there is still almost three months until the French Open begins. This, of course, is Nadal's best tournament, as he has shown over the years that he is one of the best clay-court players of all time.
Still, he must do what it takes for the knee issue to be behind him at that point. If that means spreading out tournaments and taking time off, that is perfectly fine. Although, he cannot keep going into matches with no idea of how he will feel by the end of it.
The next month will be very telling for Nadal. It will not only be about wins and losses, but also how much pain he feels in his knee and how much he can deal with.
Until he can put the injury completely behind him, there is no way he could be favored in any major tournament.