Rafael Nadal put himself through a twin workout on Friday to test his sore left knee, defeating fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-1, 6-4 to reach the semi-finals of the Chilean Open.
Nadal, who is making his comeback to the ATP Tour after seven months off to nurse the knee injury, followed that with a doubles victory, teaming up with Juan Monaco to win 6-3, 6-4 over the Argentine pair of Carlos Berlocq and Leonardo Mayer.
Those two wins meant Nadal had played five matches in four days. The knee is still hurting, but he felt like he was making progress.
“I felt better today than the first day, so that’s a positive thing,” Nadal said. “That’s a thing that gives me confidence and hope for the future, that we’re going in the right way. After seven months out of competition, even if I don’t have the pain in the knee, at the beginning you feel slower, you feel more tired than usual, so you need time to adapt. That’s the thing. I need time to do it. I still feel pain in the knee some days, and that’s something we hope and think will be improving week by week.”
Nadal was due to play France’s Jeremy Chardy in the singles semi-finals yesterday.
Should he have won that, Nadal would then face another busy day today, with a singles final plus the doubles final against Italians Paolo Lorenzi and Potito Starace.
The Spaniard’s goal is to get back to the top and challenge the other three of tennis’ “Big Four” — Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray.
Nadal took to the court on Friday with temperatures hovering at about 30oC in the middle of the South American summer.
Nadal has said he is not focused on results as he uses the Latin American clay-court events to hone his game, but most fans will expect one of the most dominant clay-court players in history — he has won 93 percent of his singles matches on the surface — to win all three tournaments and show he is ready to challenge for an eighth French Open title come May.
Nadal was asked about testing for performance-enhancing drugs. He said he wants cheats caught and clean athletes protected.
“Not everyone has to pay for some sinners,” Nadal said.
Nadal said earlier this week that he had passed six blood and urine tests since losing on June 28 at Wimbledon — his most recent tournament before the one in Chile.
Nadal said it should be made public who is being tested and how frequently.
“If I go through a lot — or very few doping controls — people should know,” he said. “Though I went for seven months without competing, I went through a lot of tests. I don’t have to justify anything. This information should be open [to] the public.”
All top tennis players are subject to being tested without warning.
The admission last month by Lance Armstrong that he used banned substances in all seven of his Tour de France victories has increased the focus on doping in all sports.
“The important thing is that those who are cheating, pay for their cheating,” Nadal said.