Sat, Feb 09, 2013 - Page 19 News List

Nadal, Monaco through to semi-finals

HERO’S WELCOME:Although having never played there before, Rafael Nadal is being treated like a rock star in Chile, with the press picking up on every nice word he says

AP, VINA DEL MAR, Chile

Spain’s Rafael Nadal, left, hits a return next to Argentina’s Juan Monaco in their men’s doubles match against France’s Guillaume Rufin and Italy’s Filippo Volandri at the VTR Open in Vina del Mar, Chile, on Thursday.

Photo: Reuters

Rafael Nadal’s knee held up for a third straight day as he won a doubles match at the VTR Open on Thursday, and he was to get twice the workout yesterday. The Spaniard teamed with Juan Monaco to reach the doubles semi-finals with a 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) victory over Guillaume Ruffin and Filippo Volandri; his third match in three days after being away from the game for seven months with an ailing left knee and a stomach virus.

Nadal was to play fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver in the singles quarter-finals yesterday, and is scheduled to play later the same day in doubles with Monaco against Argentines Carlos Berlocq and Leonardo Mayer.

This is exactly the type of test he had been looking for as he tries to get his body back up to the level where he can challenge the likes of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray again.

Nadal and Monaco addressed the crowd on the court after winning, but skipped a news conference, having done four since arriving in Chile.

“I’m very happy to play again and enjoy things here in Chile,” Nadal said. “It’s a real pleasure playing with a friend.”

Standing alongside, Monaco added: “I’m happy to be able to help at his side.”

The former No. 1-ranked Nadal moved easily around the court, showing no signs his left knee was bothering him.

“He is worrying about his knees, he’s worried about his health. He’s worried about getting back to a good competitive level,” his spokesman Benito Perez-Barbadillo said.

“He’s not worried in a negative way,” he added. “What he cares about is to be healthy and be ready to be competitive at every level he plays, and to be at the same level as he was playing before.”

Nadal has said it may take months to get back to that level and, despite winning seven French Open titles, he said he feels like that event in May is still “light years” away.

Nadal won his last of eight doubles titles last year with Mark Lopez in Indian Wells. He has won 50 titles in singles — 11 in Grand Slams.

Nadal is being treated like a rock star in Chile, where he had never played until this week. News stories have turned up some distant relatives in the South American country and papers are picking up every flattering word he says.

“I feel like just another Chilean,” he said on Wednesday — a quote that showed up in the headlines of several Chilean newspapers.

OPEN SUD DE FRANCE

AP, MONTPELLIER, France

Frenchman Michael Llodra had 13 aces and did not concede a break point as he beat second-seeded Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) on Thursday to reach the Open Sud de France quarter-finals.

Llodra hit 20 winners in the first set and was the more aggressive player throughout, using his excellent volleying at the net to keep Tipsarevic back. The Serb saved two break points at 15-40 in the 11th game of the second set and then opened up a 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker, but Llodra fought back and sealed victory with consecutive aces.

“My serve was good today and that helps on a quick surface like this,” Llodra said. “There wasn’t much in it, but I think I had more chances than him. I’m very happy to have won in straight sets.”

Fourth-seeded Gilles Simon had 12 aces as he also advanced to the last eight with a 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 win against qualifier Arnau Brugues-Davi. The match would have been over quicker, but Simon only managed to convert three of his 14 break points against the Spaniard.

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