Rafa hopes for Maracana inspiration

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iol newsp ic Brazil Rio Open Tennis AP Rafael Nadal, of Spain, listens to a question at a press conference ahead of the Rio Open ATP in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Rio Open ATP tennis tournament starts Saturday. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

Rio de Janeiro - World number one Rafael Nadal, still recovering from the back injury which thwarted his Australian Open title hopes, will take in a visit to the Maracana stadium before embarking on his Rio Open exertions next week.

The 13-time Grand Slam winner saw his back problem derail hopes of another top prize as he bowed to Stanislas Wawrinka in last month's Melbourne final.

But after sitting out Buenos Aires last week, the 27-year-old is back in the groove as he takes the inaugural Rio Open before heading on to Indian Wells and Miami.

“We'll have to see how things go regarding my back,” Nadal told reporters at the Rio Jockey Club which will host next week's event.

“I hope it will stand up well. I wasn't able to play Buenos Aires and feel bad about that but luckily here I am in Rio, which is a new city for me.

“It's great to be in Brazil, a country where I have always had good experiences,” said the Mallorcan, who has won titles in Costa do Sauipe and Sao Paulo in Brazil in the past.

“I hope I shall be able to compete well,” he said as he prepares to headline Rio.

Looking back to the injury problems which cost him in Australia he said - “I'm hopeful things will turn out well. In Australia I lost an opportunity to add another Slam.

“Opportunities to do so are not endless.I don't know if I will be catch up with (17-time Slam winner Roger) Federer.”

He added there was more to the game than just counting Slams Ä

even he will expect the upcoming claycourt season to culminate in a ninth Roland Garros crown in Paris.

Nadal said he has tourism in his sights as well as tennis in Rio, four months out from the World Cup.

“I am a football fan and Sunday will have the chance to get to know the Maracana stadium.

“It should be a special game,” he said of his plan to watch the Rio state championship match between city rivals Flamengo and Vasco da Gama.

Nadal added he had always admired Brazil's 2002 world champion and former Real Madrid star Ronaldo.

“He had serious injuries and yet came back to return to being the best in the world. He set an example to follow.”

Returning to his own injury Nadal indicated: “I trained at home for a few days and now we'll see how it goes at the top level.”

Sapa-AFP


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