We've known for years that Nadal's violent style of tennis militates against full health. We've known for years that his knees are something other than durable. He's missed significant segments of the schedule in the past. But this hiatus was particularly troubling. His return date continued to fluctuate. His public appearances and statements were limited. Amid a climate of skepticism a whispering campaign became audible, so much so that Nadal's publicist openly refuted doping insinuations.
All of which is to say, Nadal's comeback this week at the Chile Open draws particular interest. (He plays his first singles match Wednesday against No. 92 Guido Pella of Argentina or a qualifier.) What will he look like? What will he say? How will he move around the court?
The actual results won't much matter, as any scenario can be easily dismissed. If he wins the event, great. But he's tanned and rested and the King of Clay; we expect him to win a low-level event that he never deigned to play in the past. If he loses, well, he just suffers from some ring rust. No big deal. What will be more interesting: Where is Nadal physically? Where is he metaphysically?
Meanwhile, in front of a distressingly sparse crowd in Jacksonville, Fla., the United States held off an admirably tough Brazilian team. Sam Querrey won the decisive fifth match against Thiago Alves in a bizarre tie that saw John Isner and the doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan lose five-setters.
On the heels of his disappointment in Melbourne, poor Stan Wawrinka lost twice, including a seven-hour doubles match (the longest match in Davis Cup history), as a Federer-less Swiss team fell to the defending champion Czechs.
Click here for all of the Davis Cup results.
? Mona Barthel, a favorite in these parts, won the biggest title of her young career, upsetting Sara Errani in the final of the Open GDF Suez in Paris. The 22-year-old German also defeated Roberta Vinci and Marion Bartoli en route to her first Premier title. Barthel climbed from No. 45 to No. 28 in this week's WTA rankings.
? Maria Kirilenko won the Pattaya Open in Thailand, rallying past Sabina Lisicki 5-7, 6-1, 7-6 (1) in the final. Kimiko Date-Krumm, 42, teamed with Casey Dellacqua to take the doubles.
? Ryan Harrison's younger brother, Christian, 18, won a Futures tournament in Sheffield, England, for his first professional singles title.