Photo: Rafael Nadal
Spain’s Rafael Nadal, the world No. 5, said Tuesday that his long-term goal was to play in the tennis tournament at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The former world No. 1 and 11-time Grand Slam champion is in this South American country to play in the Brazil Open in Sao Paulo.
Missing the London Summer Olympics was the “first bad moment” in dealing with a serious knee injury, Nadal said.
The Spanish star was sidelined for seven months and returned to action this month at the VTR Open in Viña del Mar, Chile, where he lost in the final to Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos 7-6, 6-7, 4-6 over the weekend.
“The long-term goal in my mind is to be at Rio de Janeiro 2016 and I know that is a very long-term objective today, but it is also a very real objective,” the 26-year-old Nadal said in a press conference.
Play got underway at the Brazil Open on Monday at the Ibirapuera Colisseum.
Nadal is scheduled to make his debut on Tuesday, teaming up with Argentina’s David Nalbandian in a doubles match against Spain’s Pablo Andujar and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
The Spanish star will play his first singles match at the Brazil Open on Thursday, taking on the winner of the match between Chile’s Paul Capdeville and Zeballos.
“I am very happy to be in Brazil for the second time and after such a long time, and I came here to do my best and give it everything I’ve got,” Nadal, who won the Brazil Open in 2005, said.
The 2014 Australian Open is a priority, but South American tournaments may be in the cards in the future, Nadal said.
South American fans always provide “lots of support and lots of love,” Nadal said.
“It is a tour that has always been on my mind because South America and Latin America, in general, have worked to deserve the ATP’s support and that is why I want and desire for there to be more and better tournaments here,” the Spanish star said.
Nadal went off the ATP tour after suffering a shock second-round exit at last year’s Wimbledon at the hands of unheralded Czech Lukas Rosol, considered one of the biggest upsets in the history of that prestigious tournament.
The Spanish star is scheduled to play in the Mexican Open, which begins on Feb. 25 in Acapulco, as part of his preparations for the French Open, which gets underway in May.
The Spaniard had planned to return to action in late December in Abu Dhabi, but a stomach virus forced him to withdraw from that exhibition tournament and he also pulled out of the recently concluded Australian Open.