Rafael Nadal is counting down the hours before he can make his first appearance on a tennis court since June, when he was knocked out of Wimbledon by the little known Czech Lukas Rosol.
On Wednesday Nadal will fly to Chile to take part in the Viña del Mar tournament, the first step of a short tour of Latin America which will also take him to Sao Paulo, Brazil and Acapulco, Mexico.
In an interview on Monday, the Mallorcan revealed that he still has not made a complete recovery from the knee injury he sustained last summer and which has kept him out of action for the past seven months.
"My knee is still bothering me but we hope that, with time, the pain I'm feeling and which is preventing me from moving as freely as possible will go away, and I'll be able to compete to the level I would like."
But despite the problems with his knee, Nadal insisted "I am feeling good, better than good, I've been able to train for hours on the court and play sets [last week he trained with Tommy Robredo and Albert Ramos] but competing is another story because when you play in a tournament you have no control over your body and you have to demand so much of yourself."
During his time out from competitive tennis Nadal has intensified work in order to strengthen his knee but is still not sure how it will hold up in a tournament. He is also unsure whether he will be able to play at the level he was at before the injury.
"I'm looking forward to feeling the excitement of playing in a tournament again but I'm doing it without being certain how my knee will respond. I need time to readapt and see if I can handle competing at the highest level.
"I don't know if I'll be able to play to the same level as before, I haven't contemplated that. All I'm concerned about is that my knee stops hurting. If it stops hurting and I can play four or five tournaments on hard court I don't see why I won't be able to play to a very high level again on clay, where it is easier for me. But right now I'm not ready to play to my best, without any doubt."
Last week Nadal's compatriot David Ferrer overtook him in fourth position in the ATP rankings, but the Mallorcan said he had no hard feelings about it.
"I haven't looked at the rankings for the last seven months, Ferrer deserves it."