Former world number one Rafael Nadal had been out of the tennis tour for seven months, but he returned from injury with a win and a warning to his rivals.
“I’m only a year older than (Novak) Djokovic and (Andy) Murray. Maybe it’s not time to bury me yet,” Nadal said in an interview with L’Equipe.
“I have not forgotten how to play tennis. I think I can reach the level I used to have.”
On Wednesday Nadal returned to competitive tennis with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Argentine Federico Delbonis on clay in the Chilean seaside town of Vina del Mar.
“I felt good, very happy to play a singles tournament again. It was a very important and very beautiful afternoon for me,” Nadal said.
“After seven months the first match is always very tough. At the beginning it was hard, Federico played at a high level, made me run a lot. But I’m happy because my knee stood it well,” he said.
“I need time, I need days. The most important thing for me nowadays is to spend as many hours as possible on court,” Nadal said.
The tournament is grateful to have a rare top player, and the capacity crowd give him their wholehearted support. Nadal obliges in full colour — in orange shoes and a purple shirt — and he admits spectators are making him feel “like a Chilean” with their cheer.