News Column

Rafael Nadal to Put Knee to Test on Hardcourts

March 5, 2013

By Chris Strauss

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal might want to make an appointment at one of midtown Manhattan's numerous fortune tellers during his brief stay in the Big Apple.

In town to play Juan Martin del Potro in the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Nadal said he wasn't sure how many hardcourt events he's likely to participate in while he recovers from a knee injury.

"I cannot predict the future," Nadal said at a news conference. "I have to see how the knee will last at Indian Wells next week. Having the chance to play at Indian Wells is great. I didn't know one week ago if I would be able to play at Indian Wells."

Nadal lost to del Potro 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 in the featured match of the exhibition, but he drew roars from the crowd for simply being on court in the USA for the first time in nearly a year and because he and del Potro delivered some excellent shot-making along with the smiles.

Earlier, top-ranked Serena Williams defeated No. 2 Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-3. It was the first event for each since Azarenka held off Williams in the Qatar Open final last month. Both showed rust early before loosening up as the match wore on. At one point, Azarenka called her No. 1 fan, pop star Redfoo, onto the court to take over for a point. He showed good pace if not accuracy on his serve.

"He needs to practice before his exhibition," Azarenka joked later.

Williams and Azarenka also played a couple of rallies left-handed in honor of Nadal. They revealed they're planning to shoot a karaoke video together to Rihanna's Stay.

Nadal, who missed seven months of action before returning for the Latin American clay-court season, beat David Ferrer in the final of the Mexican Open on Saturday. Nadal will return for his first hardcourt tournament in the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., this weekend.

"The last couple of days, my knee has been improving," Nadal said. "I go day by day. After seven months with a lot of pain in my knee, I don't have the chance to decide which one will be my schedule for the future. I try to enjoy every one.

"Today I know I can play on clay. I will try next week on the hard. It will be a process to adapt my knee to the competition. I hope I will keep having the chances to play the normal calendar as I did in past years."

The next hardcourt tournament that Nadal would be expected to participate in after Indian Wells is the Sony Open, March 20 in Miami.

Hall of Fame: The International Tennis Hall of Fame announced Monday that Martina Hingis, longtime ESPN tennis broadcaster Cliff Drysdale, tennis promoter and industry leader Charlie Pasarell and Romanian great Ion Tiriac were elected to the 2013 class. They will join previously announced Australian legend Thelma Coyne Long at enshrinement ceremonies July 13 at the Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.

Hingis was No. 1 in singles for 209 weeks overall and No. 1 in doubles for 35 weeks. She ended up with 15 major titles -- five in singles and 10 in doubles. After her dominant 1997 season, Hingis was named the Associated Press female athlete of the year, the WTA player of the year and the ITF player of the year.

"Many congratulations to Martina. She's such a great person," Serena Williams said. "She did so much for the sport and inspired me a lot to play."

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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