Nadal returns to the court in Rotterdam
The Swiss will not return to tennis until his Dubai title defense from early March - Nadal is taking his Rotterdam campaign seriously.Updated: Feb 17, 2008 21:46 IST
Rafael Nadal steps back on to court almost a month after his last match, making a Dutch debut as top seed at the Rotterdam Open starting on Monday.
Since losing in the semi-finals of the Australian Open to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Spain's Nadal has rested a knee and started a charitable foundation based on his island home of Mallorca.
But with the chance to try and close the gap a bit on world number one Roger Federer - the Swiss will not return to tennis until his Dubai title defense from early March - Nadal is taking his Rotterdam campaign seriously.
Out of action is fragile Novak Djokovic, who has not been at full fitness since his Australian Open title.
The Serb limped through a doubles match this month in Davis Cup, quit a reverse singles rubber and was unable to complete a match in Marseille. He is hoping to rid himself of a virus by skipping Rotterdam.
He won the 2006 event and lost in the semi-finals last year. The news did not go down well with tournament director Richard Krajicek, who suffered an epidemic of pullouts last year.
"Although the news wasn't completely unexpected, it's obviously a setback that we our losing one of our top players," said the 1996 Wimbledon winner.
"I feel some relief that the other Top Five players (Nadal, Nikolay Davydenko and David Ferrer) and Lleyton Hewitt have already confirmed their flights."
Nadal is trailed in the seedings by number two Davydenko, a semi-finalist at the last two editions. Spain's David Ferrer takes third seeding ahead of holder Mikhail Youzhny.
Czech Tomas Berdych is seeded fifth, with Briton Andy Murray on sixth.
Nadal begins against Russian Dmitry Tursunov in the first round and could face 2004 winner Hewitt if the Australian ranked 22nd gets past Italian Andreas Seppi in his first match.
Davydenko first faces a qualifier and then the winner from retiring Dutchman Raemon Sluiter and France's dangerous Michael Llodra.