'Priority is to recover well'

Madrid: Rafael Nadal's steady recuperation from a knee injury is proceeding according to plan and he is not going to rush back before it has healed properly, the world No. 4 said.

In an interview in Madrid, the 11-time Grand Slam singles champion said he was still feeling some pain in his left knee and would only return to the court when that was no longer the case. "I am working as much as I can, I am doing everything they tell me to every day and the truth is that right now things are going well, more or less," the 26-year-old Spaniard said. "The only thing is that I need a bit more time," he added.

"We'll see how things develop in the next few weeks but my priority is to recover well, not quickly, but well.

"Obviously as soon as possible but the main thing is to have the certainty that you are fine when you do return.

"I will return to the court when I feel that the knee no longer gives me any pain, whether that is in two weeks or in three or four."

Majorca-native Nadal has been sidelined several times by knee injuries during his 11-year career and his latest was diagnosed as a partial tear of the patella tendon and an inflammation of the Hoffa's fat pad.

The former No. 1 has not played since suffering a shock second-round defeat to Czech Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon in June. He missed the Olympic Games after winning the title in 2008 and was forced to withdraw from the US Open.

Nadal is having intense physiotherapy and laser treatment and Spanish tennis federation (RFET) doctor Angel Ruiz-Cotorro said on September 5 he could be back on court, training within a month. "Tennis is a very aggressive and demanding sport, and, obviously the knees suffer above all when you are playing on hard courts," Nadal said.

"On fast courts the movements are much more aggressive, when you are playing at your maximum you have to push your body to the limit. I have had problems with my knees, others have other problems.

"The reality is that at the age of 26 and after a career of more than 10 years, with very good results, it has been my good fortune that my knees have not prevented me competing at the highest level for many years.

"I hope that when I return they don't hinder me."

Nadal played some of his best tennis in the first half of the year, losing narrowly to Novak Djokovic in the final of the Australian Open and winning a record seventh Roland Garros title on his favoured clay. He said his goal was to get back to a similar level of fitness to allow him to go toe-to-toe with the game's best again.

"What I hope for is to be ready to compete again for everything I want to compete for, like I did in the first six months of the year," he said. "That is what I will try to achieve, it's what I will fight for and work every day.

"I am 26 years old and I am confident I have plenty of years ahead. What I want is to recover well and to continue enjoying tennis and competition, which is what make me happy right now."

Nadal's Spain are chasing a fourth Davis Cup title in five years and play the Czech Republic in the November 16-18 final. He said he did not know whether he would have recovered in time to feature.

He has only lost one of 21 singles rubbers in the competition but 16 of those wins have come on clay and as the home team the Czechs are almost certain to select hard courts.

"If things go well and I can make the final and the captain thinks I am the right person to play it then I'll be there," he said. "If not, I'll be supporting the guys from afar."

Nadal has dominated the Slams in recent years along with world No. 2 Djokovic and No. 1 Roger Federer but he said Andy Murray's US Open win this month meant the Briton had finally joined their exclusive club.

Murray's victory against Federer at Wimbledon to win the Olympic gold had given him the extra confidence to see off Djokovic in New York, Nadal added. "What has changed is his mentality," he said. His game has not changed practically at all but winning the Olympic Games helped him a lot with the victory in New York.

"Andy is a player with an impressive talent and I always said he would win a slam, not just one he'll win more than one." (Reuters)