Former world No.1 Rafael Nadal chose Chile for his return to tennis earlier this month after a seven month absence from the sport due to a recurring knee problem. The Chilean Open, or VTR ATP Tournament, is part of the ATP World Tour 250 series, and the first ATP tournament of the year to be played on clay, Nadal’s favored surface.
The Chilean Open, which ran from February 3 – 9 this year in Viña del Mar, has attracted some big names in the past, including former world No.1 Mats Wilander and Wimbledon runner-up David Nalbandian, though Nadal is by far the most decorated player to have been featured in the competition.
This year marked the tournament’s most successful edition, with tickets selling out in advance and 4,500 capacity stands filling up for much of the event.
Prior to the competition, Chilean tennis legend and former world No.5 Fernando González told the press,“[Having Nadal here] is very good for tennis in my country. Everybody is very excited, everyone’s been talking about it and nobody could really believe it when we were told he was coming here.”
Speaking in a press conference on his arrival in Chile, Nadal said, “Since I arrived, the fans have been great towards me. Going out on court and feeling this way is always special. I’m very grateful for everything that has happened to me since I’ve arrived.”
It looked to be an easy return to the sport for the seven time French Open winner. The Spaniard cruised into the doubles final along with playing partner Juan Monaco, as well as the men’s singles final having dropped only one set along the way.
Surprisingly, Nadal finished runner up in both events, losing out on the doubles title to Italians Paolo Lorenzi and Potito Starace, and slumping to a shock defeat against Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos, then ranked 78th in the world, in the singles final.
Despite the losses, Nadal seemed upbeat at the close of the tournament. “Thanks to everyone in Chile. It’s been a special week!” he said in a tweet.