AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda
Rafael Nadal didn't play a match for 2 1/2 months. He's certainly making up for lost time at the Rio Games.
The 14-time major champion, whose left wrist still isn't 100 percent, has already played five matches in three days at the Olympic tennis tournament. Now he's got three in one day scheduled for Wednesday - though rain in the forecast could change that.
Nadal, who had to withdraw from his beloved French Open because of the wrist injury, concedes he wouldn't be playing this week if this weren't the Olympics. So why would he enter all three events - singles, doubles and mixed doubles - while working his way back into match shape?
"My motivation is to try to get ready for as many competitions as possible and try to give me as many chances as possible to compete here," Nadal said Tuesday night after his second match of the day, a doubles win.
The 2008 gold medalist in singles, he was supposed to be Spain's flag bearer in 2012 but missed the London Games because of a knee injury. The 30-year-old Nadal simply was going to find a way to make it to Rio, and he led out the Spanish delegation at Friday's opening ceremony.
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) August 6, 2016
He had to decide Monday whether to play mixed doubles with French Open champ Garbine Muguruza. For all he knew at the time, he explained, he could have lost both his matches Tuesday and his Olympics would be over. So he committed to mixed doubles - then went out and won twice.
The third-seeded Nadal's wild Wednesday will start at 12:30 p.m. at the earliest in the third round of singles against 15th-seeded Gilles Simon. His semifinal doubles match with Marc Lopez and the first-round mixed doubles will take place later.
About 14 1/2 hours before his singles match, Nadal deflected a question about whether he's fit enough to play three times in a day: "If I go to rest, maybe OK," he said with a grin.
Nadal and Lopez, one of his closest friends, are seeded sixth. They face seventh-seeded Canadians Vasek Pospisil and Daniel Nestor. He and Muguruza are seeded third in mixed doubles and meet Czechs Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek.
Usually at a Grand Slam tournament, barring rain, the most intense schedule Nadal would face would be seven matches spread out over 13 days. At the Olympics, though, men's matches are best-of-3, not best-of-5, until the final, unlike a major.
So far in Rio, he has been pushed to three sets just once in five matches - Monday's doubles win. Nadal has spent a total of just over 8 hours on court.