After success on clay, comeback man Nadal gets ready for hard court ordeal

Buoyant after a successful tournament run on clay in recent weeks, Rafael Nadal knows he will face the toughest test of his injury comeback at the BNP Paribas Open starting on Thursday.

Following a shock second-round exit at Wimbledon last year, the Spanish left-hander was sidelined for seven months by a left knee injury and he now returns to the hard courts of Indian Wells, a surface where his all-action, fist-pumping game has always been most vulnerable.

"I am just here to try my best," world number five Nadal told reporters after practising on one of the outside courts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. "We will see how the knee answers on hard. "It seems that the results on clay were positive, especially because the knee was feeling better and better every week, especially the last week. Now I am going to try here on hard."

Nadal returned to the ATP circuit last month in South America where he competed in three relatively minor claycourt events, winning two of them after reaching all three finals.

He was especially pleased with his performance at the Mexican Open in Acapulco where he clinched the title after sweeping aside three-times defending champion David Ferrer 6-0, 6-2 in little over an hour on Sunday.

"I played much, much, much better than what I thought and in Acapulco I played a fantastic tournament," Nadal smiled. "And in the final at Acapulco, forget about if I was seven months away from tennis, I played much, much better than a lot of finals when I am competing at 100 percent. I played one of my best matches probably ever on clay in the final."

Asked how his troublesome knee was feeling as he prepared for the elite ATP Masters 1000 event at Indian Wells, Nadal replied: "I have good days and I have bad days during all the claycourt season. "The important thing for me today is that most of the days I have changed the dynamic and I have much more good days than bad days. That's a positive thing.

"The only negative thing on clay when I have a bad day is your movements are easier than here (on a hardcourt surface)."

A left knee injury forced Nadal to pull out of the semifinals in Miami last March - and began a chain of events that meant he would not play on hard courts again for a whole year.  Though he went on to win an 11th Grand Slam title at the French Open last June, his season came to an abrupt end two weeks later following a defeat to Czech journeyman Lukas Rosol.

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