- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 6, 2013

VINA DEL MAR, Chile — Rafael Nadal rebounded from a poor start to defeat Federico Delbonis of Argentina 6-3, 6-2 on Wednesday in the second round of the VTR Open.

It was his first singles match since losing in Wimbledon more than seven months ago.

Nadal won in doubles on Tuesday with partner Juan Monaco, but the singles debut was a bigger test for the Spaniard and his injured left knee, which kept him away from the competitive game since June 28.

The seven-time French Open champion said Tuesday he’s tired of answering questions about his knee and must adjust to playing with the pain. Nadal has not had surgery and is undergoing therapy and playing with a bandage.

He’s acknowledged he’s less than 100 percent, and his coach and uncle Toni Nadal has said doctors expect him to have to play with discomfort.

Nadal won only one point in the first two games, but bounced back after being pushed.

“The beginning was tough and Federico played at a very high level,” Nadal said. “I ran a lot and I’m happy because the knee held up well.”

After falling behind 2-0, Nadal broke back in the fourth game to tie it 2-2, racing to chase down several shots in a long rally and showing no fear of injury. He was in control after that, wrapping up the set in 47 minutes.

Nadal breezed through the second, cheered on by a sellout crowd of 4,500. The temporary stadium for the tournament was increased by 1,200 seats for fans to see one of the sport’s biggest stars, who has never played in Chile.

Nadal has fallen behind his main rivals in the game — Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray — and now must focus on winning his eighth French Open, which starts in late May. Nadal will turn 27 during the tournament and has been the game’s most dominant player on clay.

Nadal is lowering expectations for this event, and the two tournaments on clay that follow in San Paulo, Brazil, and Acapulco, Mexico.

“If one day it (the knee) is worse, and one can’t compete at 100 percent, then it can’t be done,” he said Tuesday.

Nadal has said what he needs most is playing time. He practiced for an hour Wednesday before his singles victory.

Nadal plays doubles again on Thursday with Juan Monaco against the pair of Guillaume Rufin and Flippo Volandri.

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