- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 12, 2013

SAO PAULO (AP) - The ATP was not doing enough to protect players’ health and the increase in hard-court events will lead to long-term injuries that will affect players after they retire, Rafael Nadal said Tuesday.

“The ATP worries too little about the players,” said Nadal, who was in Brazil to play his second tournament after a seven-month layoff from a left-knee injury. “It should care more for them.”

The 11-time Grand Slam winner said he doesn’t expect major changes anytime soon, but it’s time tennis officials start thinking about ways to help improve the players’ long-term health.

“For future generations, it would be good to see a less aggressive tennis life,” he said. “Not only because of what happens during your career, but also because of what happens after your career, about how is your body when your tennis career is over.”

Nadal said because of the way tennis was played, he doesn’t “think it will be possible” for him to be a recreational athlete after his professional career.

The 26-year-old Nadal said hard courts were “too tough” on players’ bodies and made it difficult to avoid injuries. Tennis was the only major sport where players had to play on cement, said the greatest clay-court player of the Open era.

“This is not a subject for the players, it’s a matter for doctors,” he said. “The ATP has to start thinking about ways to lengthen the players’ careers. I can’t imagine football players playing on cement, I can’t imagine any other sport involving aggressive movements such as tennis being played on such aggressive surfaces such as ours. We are the only sport in the world making this mistake and it won’t change.”

Nadal also criticized the ATP’s attempt to strictly enforce the 25-second rule between serves, saying it will not benefit the sport.

“People like to see great rallies, long matches, and for that to happen, the 25 seconds are not enough,” he said. “If the ATP wants a sport which is faster but doesn’t take into consideration a lot of strategy or great rallies, then it’s right doing this. I think the players in the locker rooms are not very happy with that rule.”

Nadal, who lost in the final of his first comeback tournament in Chile last week, said he wasn’t worried about wins and his main focus was to regain rhythm on the court.

“I need time, I need weeks of matches and practice,” he said. “I’m not prepared to think about titles yet, I’m thinking day-to-day. After so many months without playing, it’s hard to think about titles.”

He was to play his first-round doubles on Tuesday and his first singles on Thursday.

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