They were giving the tickets away a year ago, and still had a difficult time attracting fans.
It's a different story this year at the VTR Open, a small ATP clay-court tournament in this resort city on Chile's Pacific coast. This is where Rafael Nadal has decided to make his comeback after sitting out for more than seven months with an injured left knee.
Nadal had never been to Chile, much less played an event here. Now he's being treated like a native son with local newspapers digging up his connections to distant family members in the country. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera was one of the first to greet him when he arrived.
Call it the Rafael Nadal Effect.
''This country wants success and wants to be seen as successful,'' said tournament press officer Rafael Walker. ''For a long time the country was like a little island, isolated from the world by the sea and mountains. So when you get a big star here - like Nadal - he's treated like a rock star.''
The tournament is sold o...