Vina Del Mar Is Perfect Tournament for Rafael Nadal's Return

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2013

Rafael Nadal will return to action on Feb. 4.
Rafael Nadal will return to action on Feb. 4.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal will soon make his highly-anticipated return to the tennis court, and he timed it just right.

According to the Associated Press, the star will come back sooner than expected. Nadal will compete in the Vina del Mar Tournament in Chile on Feb. 4.

His first action since injuring his knee at Wimbledon last June was previously believed to occur on Feb. 11 at the Brazilian Open, where Nadal will still compete.

The 26-year-old almost entered the Australian Open, but he held out due to a stomach virus that further delayed his revival. 

But it's probably for the best that Nadal did not test out his recovered knee in a major tournament. This presents him with a great opportunity to ease back into his game without his every move scrutinized under the microscope.

Had one of the sport's major attractions resurfaced during the Australian Open, all eyes would have followed his every move.

If his performance fell anywhere below his previous level of play, speculation would have commenced that this injury set him back, spelling a long road to recovery.

Or worse, they would have asked if the old Nadal would ever truly return. Did the injury rob Nadal of his prime?

But how much of that fanfare will carry over to Vina del Mar? Probably a significantly smaller portion consisting of tennis' true fans, who won't allow one event to incite a knee-jerk reaction.

Now Nadal can ease into competition by engaging in a lesser known tournament. Now the story is just that Rafael Nadal is back, and everyone (besides his opponents) is glad for it.

Nadal will get to play his first two tournaments on the clay rather than managing Melbourne Park's hard courts, which puts less pressure on his knee.

A sport frequently dominated by the same guys could have used one of its marquee names to promote during one of its key tournaments. In the long run, though, it's better that Nadal waited and picked his spot at a more opportune time and location.