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August 19, 2009

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Nadal takes it slow, steady

SLOW is not a speed usually associated with Rafa Nadal, but the former world No. 1 admitted on Monday his return to full fitness and to grand slam winning form is likely to take some time.

The Spaniard only returned to the tour last week in Montreal after two months out with chronic tendinitis in both knees.

The 23-year-old, who was forced to miss the defence of his Wimbledon title because of his injuries, dropped to No. 3. His run to the Montreal quarterfinals last week lifted his spirits, though, and Nadal believes that in time, he will get back to his very best.

"It's impossible to start from a zero and go to a hundred," Nadal said. "I need to make a little bit of progress every day. Today I practiced one hour, 45 (minutes). Normally if I have one more day (before a match) I am going to play a little bit more, two hours, 30. I need to go slow. The important thing is to be good physically.

"If I feel like this, I know with experience, if I work hard and if I can work with the normal intensity as I did in the past, I am going to have chances to be ready another time at my best level. If it's not this year, I hope next year."

Nadal pushed Juan Martin Del Potro, the eventual finalist, to a tiebreak in a competitive first set in Montreal before fading in the second set. Now that he is playing without pain, he believes he is on the path back to full fitness.

"I feel good," Nadal said. "I feel very happy to be here. Last week was an important week for me after (being) out of competition. It was a good comeback."

Nadal admitted he had been unfortunate to get injured after making such a strong start to the year by winning the Australian Open for his sixth grand slam title. "I think I had the season under control before my injury," he said. "I was playing well, having almost perfect season. After the injury, it's tough. But I know myself. I know that when I was OK, I was there. I was the No. 1 this year before my injury, so I know if I am ready, I am going to have chances to be there another time."


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