AP – Rafael Nadal has taken a wildcard entry into next week’s Argentina Open, attempting to kickstart his season after his shock Australian Open first round exit.
With his sights firmly set on claiming a record 10th French Open title in June, world No.5 Nadal will be defending a claycourt title he won with victory over Argentina’s Juan Monaco in last year’s final in Buenos Aires.
“I asked for this wild card after the bad result in Melbourne and I hope that Buenos Aires will once again be the start of a good run for me,” said Nadal from Mallorca, where he has been practising on clay.
The 29-year-old winner of 14 grand slam titles is joining a field at the Argentina Open that includes countryman David Ferrer, the world No.6, and France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the No.9.
“Having Rafa defend his title is the best possible news just five days before we get going,” Argentina Open director Martin Jaite, a former Davis Cup captain, said.
Troubled by knee injuries in recent years, Nadal had a frustrating season in 2015, when his ranking fell to as low as No.10 and he won only minor tournaments.
The Spaniard began playing better toward the end of 2015 and began this year in auspicious fashion by winning an exhibition tournament in the United Arab Emirates, defeating big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic 7-6 (7-2) 6-3.
Nadal, however, was shocked in the first round of the Australian Open, where he was beaten by countryman Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (8-6) 4-6 4-6 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2.