VINA DEL MAR, Chile -- Rafael Nadal tested his sore left knee with a pair of matches on Friday, defeating fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-1, 6-4 to reach the semifinals of the VTR Open, then advancing in the doubles tournament as well.
Nadal, who is returning to the tour after seven months off because of the knee injury, teamed with Juan Monaco to post a 6-3, 6-4 victory against the Argentine pair of Carlos Berlocq and Leonardo Mayer.
The twin wins meant Nadal had played five matches in four days. The knee is still hurting but he felt as if he was making progress.
"I felt better today than the first day, so that's a positive thing," he said. "That's a thing that gives me confidence and hope for the future that we're going in the right way. After seven months out of competition, even if I don't have the pain in the knee, at the beginning you feel slower, you feel more tired than usual so you need time to adapt. That's the thing. I need time to do it. I still feel pain in the knee some days and that's something we hope and think will be improving week by week."
Nadal will play France's Jeremy Chardy in the singles semifinals on Saturday. If he advances, the Spaniard then will face another busy day on Sunday with a singles final and the doubles championship against the Italian pair Paolo Lorenzi and Potito Starace.
He took the court Friday with temperatures hovering around 85 degrees in the middle to the South American summer. He is likely to encounter similar temperatures when he plays next week in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and later this month in Acapulco, Mexico.
Nadal has said he's not focusing on the results while he uses the Latin American clay-court events to hone his game. But most fans expect one of the most dominant clay-court players in history -- he has won 93 percent of his singles matches on the surface -- to win all three tournaments and show he's ready to challenge for an eighth French Open title come May.
He will turn 27 in the middle of the French Open.