Biggest test yet for Nadal's knee

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 07, 2013
Rafael Nadal is not sure how his injured left knee will respond to his first hardcourt match of the year at the BNP Paribas Open. Nadal is a two-time champion and three-time finalist at this event. He has not played a match on a hard court in almost a year and is only a month into his comeback from a left knee injury that sidelined him for seven months. He has played three tournaments since returning, all on clay, and won titles in Brazil and Acapulco, Mexico, after losing to Horacio Zeballos in the final in Chile in his first week back. ''The results on clay were positive, especially because the knee was feeling better and better every week, especially last week,'' Nadal said. ''Now I'm going to try here on hard (court). I don't know (what might happen). I cannot say much. ''I'm not confident about what I will be able to do here after one year of not playing on hard. I will try my best. I don't expect anything in results here.'' His first match will be Saturday, against the winner of a Thursday match between Ryan Harrison of the United States and Go Soeda of Japan. Down the road could be a quarterfinal round matchup with No. 2 Roger Federer and a semifinal match against No. 4 David Ferrer, whom Nadal beat 6-0, 6-2 in the Acapulco final. For that to happen, it would take the same kind of improvement Nadal saw between his loss to Zeballos and his win over Ferrer. ''The difference is that I was able to compete close to 100 percent in Acapulco and I didn't have that chance in Chile,'' Nadal said while praising Zeballos for playing a fantastic match. ''My tennis level was much better in Acapulco. ''You cannot expect to be back after seven months and play fantastic. You cannot expect to be back on hard court and practice 2 or 3 days and play a fantastic match in the first match. ''That's competition, that's the sport. You have to work to be 100 percent ready.'' In women's first-round matches on Thursday, Taylor Townsend, a 16-year-old American playing her fourth professional match of the year, beat Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3, and 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan was a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 winner over Galena Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan. The men's first round started with David Nalbandian of Argentina beating Marcel Granollers of Spain 6-4, 6-2 and Bernard Tomic of Australia ousting Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil 6-4, 6-3. Two-time tournament champions Lleyton Hewitt (2002, 2003) of Australia and Daniela Hantuchova (2002, 2007) played later in the day while the 32 seeded players in both fields continued to sit out the action. The women's seeds will play when their second round begins.
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