Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal said Friday upon his arrival in Chile that he is ready to start his comeback despite lingering discomfort in his left knee.
"It's just good enough (to play), but like always I'm going to do whatever I can to compete," the former No. 1 told reporters outside his hotel in Santiago.
The Spaniard, whose ranking has dropped to No. 5 due to his seven-month absence from the ATP Tour, said the "injury is much better" and "there's no risk" of further debilitating damage.
"This is the main reason why I'm here. Even though I still have some discomfort that prevents me at times from training as hard as I'd like to, you've got to start sometime and I think this is the right time and place," Nadal said.
The 11-time Grand Slam champion also downplayed his chances at next week's VTR Open clay-court event in the Chilean coastal city of Viña del Mar, saying losing in the first round is a possibility and that he has to be "patient and work hard every day to get my form back."
Nadal will first take the court along with Argentine partner Juan Monaco in a doubles match on Tuesday and then play his opening singles match on Wednesday.
The Spaniard also is scheduled to play two other small clay-court events in February - the Brazil Open in Sao Paulo, which starts Feb. 11, and the Mexican Open in Acapulco, which begins on Feb. 25.
Nadal has not played in South America since 2005, when he won his second of 50 ATP Tour singles titles in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil.
He told Efe in August that he was suffering from a knee ailment known as Hoffa's syndrome, which is also known as fat pad impingement and involves pain and swelling around the bottom and under the kneecap.
The Spaniard began last summer on a high note by capturing a record seventh French Open title with a victory over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the final.
But he suffered a shock second-round exit at Wimbledon a couple of weeks later at the hands of unheralded Czech Lukas Rosol, considered one of the biggest upsets in the history of that prestigious tournament, and has not competed since.
Nadal withdrew from last year's Olympic Games and the U.S. Open due to the injury.
He had planned to return to action in late December in Abu Dhabi, but a stomach virus forced him to withdraw from that exhibition tournament and he also pulled out of the Australian Open, which concluded last weekend.
Nadal, known for his physically demanding style of play and outstanding defensive skills, has struggled to stay healthy during his career, having been forced to withdraw from each of the four Grand Slam events due to various injuries. EFE