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 the 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 today, against Ryan Harrison of the US.
Down the road could be a quarter-final round matchup with No. 2 Roger Federer and a semi-final 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.
Two-time tournament champions Lleyton Hewitt and Daniela Hantuchova both won long first-round matches on Thursday. Hewitt, who got his titles back-to-back in 2002 and 2003, beat Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 and will face No. 15 seed John Isner today.
Hantuchova, the women’s champion in 2002 and 2007, beat qualifier Stephanie Foretz Gacon of France 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in 2 hours, 12 minutes to set up a second-round match against reigning champion and top seed Victoria Azarenka.
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 (7/1), 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.