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Nadal returns

Rio de Janeiro: World No. 1 Rafael Nadal will top the bill at next week’s inaugural Rio Open as he returns from the back injury that wrecked his Australian Open title assault.

The Spanish star, denied a 14th Grand Slam title in Melbourne by Stanislas Wawrinka, will be the biggest draw for what is South America’s only combined ATP World Tour 500 and WTA International event.

Fellow-Spaniard David Ferrer will be Nadal’s main rival as the latter returns to Brazil having captured the Sao Paulo titles last year.

Nadal said on Friday he is hoping to leave his back problems behind him as he tunes up for another successful clay swing this season. “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.

“I hope I shall be able to compete well,” he told reporters. “I trained at home for a few days and now we’ll see how it goes at the top level.”

“There are still two-and-a-half years to go but I’d like to play, especially having missed out on the London Games. I’d love to come to the Rio Games,” said 2008 Beijing Olympics champion Nadal. (Agencies)