Rafael Nadal admitted that he faces a "sea of doubt" about his chances of a successful return to tennis in August after missing two months with knee pain.
"I'm in a sea of doubt," said the world number two, who lost his top ranking after crashing out of the French Open in the fourth round and then sitting out with knee tendinitis during Wimbledon, which was won by Roger Federer.
In his interview to Spanish television TVE, the four-time Roland Garros champion said his "dream" is to return to the ATP for the Aug 9 start of the Montreal Masters after last playing a match on May 31, when he went out in Paris to Robin Soderling: "I have to force the knees and just see how far I can go."
Nadal had felt pain from the start of the European clay season and willed himself to play - and win - Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome over three consecutive weeks in April and May. "I didn't know when to stop," he said.
He said that playing in Madrid, where he lost the final to Federer after a marathon semi-final win over Novak Djokovic, was a step too far for his body.
"I came close to breaking," he said. "I wanted to play Madrid, but now I think it was a mistake."
The 23-year-old cleared the air about the recent separation of his parents, saying that the personal event did not affect his tennis.
"My family was always very supportive in my career," Nadal said. "These changes are somewhat difficult to digest. But that's not what affected me. The real problem was my knees."
He said that returning to the game will be a gradual affair, perhaps with sharply redefined priorities.
"My main objective is not to regain the number one ranking. My main goal is to be well and happy to be playing tennis," Nadal said.
"I'm mentally ready to return now. That was not the case a month ago (when he pulled from his Wimbledon title defence). The rest was perfect for the knees..."