| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff
Photo credit: Kenneth B. Goldberg

World number five Rafael Nadal made his long-awaited return to the ATP World Tour on Tuesday evening in Vina del Mar as he and Juan Monaco were 6-3, 6-2 winners over the second seeded team of Frantisek Cermak & Lukas Dlouhy in the first round of the VTR Open. Nadal, who has been sidelined for seven months with a left knee injury, last played in the second round of Wimbledon where he was upset by Lukas Rosol. Nadal returned triumphantly with Monaco, saving all six break points they faced and converting four of seven opportunities on their opponents’ serve.

"It was a great feeling to play again and I'm very happy for doing it with a friend like Monaco in a great atmosphere that we had on the court," Nadal said. "In doubles the effort is always less [taxing]; we will see how it goes in singles and how my physical condition is. I chose this tournament because it is the perfect time and surface."

Nadal will make his singles return on Wednesday at the VTR Open when he faces Argentine Federico Delbonis.

''I am not 100 percent, I need some weeks,'' said Nadal. ''If it hurts, it hurts and we'll put up with it. I am here to play tennis, with or without pain. I'm happy to have played an official game, although it was doubles.''

Tennis Channel has added Nadal’s first singles match in seven months to its live Wednesday lineup. The match, set for 4:00 p.m. ET at the VTR Open in Vina del Mar, Chile, will mark the singles return of one of the most popular stars on the ATP World Tour.

Leif Shiras will call the match for Tennis Channel. Encore presentations of Nadal’s comeback will air Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. ET and Thursday, Feb. 7, at 10:00 p.m. ET. The network had already planned to carry the singles semifinals and championship in Vina del Mar this weekend prior to Nadal’s entry into the tournament.