With Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo watching, Rafael Nadal won the Brazil Open on Sunday — his first title after a seven-month layoff caused by treatment of his left knee.
Nadal said Ronaldo is "an example" to be followed because of his determination to rebound from a series of career-threatening knee injuries.
"He was unstoppable, one of the best players of all time despite all the bad luck he had with the knee," Nadal said.
His victory notwithstanding, the Spaniard said he is still bothered by his knee and is far from fully recovered. He hopes his Sunday will mark a new beginning in his career.
"There are days that the knee still hurts and it's very complicated," he said. "I need some time to keep improving and become more competitive again. Let's see how it goes."
Out of action since last year because a torn and inflamed tendon in his knee, on Sunday he beat former world No. 3 David Nalbandian of Argentina 6-2, 6-3 to win his 51st title, and first since beating Novak Djokovic last June for his seventh French Open championship.
The Brazil Open was Nadal's second tournament since his return. He played at the VTR Open in Chile the week before, losing the singles and doubles final. The final in Brazil was only his eighth singles match since the comeback.
The 11-time Grand Slam champion admitted the level of the competition in Brazil was not as high as in other tournaments.
Nadal will play another clay-court tournament in Mexico this month and hopes to be fully fit by the French Open. He hopes to play at Indian Wells, Calif., next month but hasn't made a decision.
"We are thinking day to day, week to week," the 26-year-old said. "We'll see how I feel before making a decision on where I'll be playing in the near future, it will depend on how the knee improves."
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.