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September 26, 2017

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Rafael Nadal shrugs off talk about return to world number one spot

VINA DEL MAR, Chile -- Rafael Nadal shrugged off talk of reclaiming the world number one spot on Saturday as the 11-time Grand Slam title winner prepared to return after a seven-month injury layoff.

Nadal, now at five in the world after not having played since his shock second round defeat at Wimbledon in June, will be top seed at the Vina del Mar clay-court event next week.

But he is desperate to cool speculation over whether or not he will be able to return to the top of the rankings, a position currently occupied by Novak Djokovic.

"After seven months without playing, I am not even thinking of the world number one spot. I am just concentrating on doing my best," said the Spaniard.

Nadal was kept off the tour through a recurrence of his long-standing knee injury as well as illness.

Those setbacks meant he missed out on the Olympics, where he was the defending champion, the U.S. Open, the 2012 Davis Cup final as well as last month's Australian Open.

"I am feeling good, but I need to have weeks of competition on the tour. I have to start slowly and with patience," said the seven-time French Open champion.

After playing in Chile, Nadal will head off to Brazil and Acapulco before testing his recovery to the full at the season's opening Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami.

"I don't worry now about running to be able to play the best I can. That can help me progress as far as possible," he said.

But the 26-year-old, whose ranking is at an eight-year low, warned: "I just want to be able to play at an acceptable level after such a long time."

Nadal, playing on a wild card, is top seed at the US$410,000 tournament and will play doubles with Argentina's Juan Monaco on Tuesday.

In singles, he has a bye in the first round and will open his campaign at 2100GMT on Wednesday against either Argentina's Guido Pella, the world 97, or a qualifier.

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