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Rafael Nadal admitted that the back problem which scuppered his Australian Open title hopes is still “bothering me” as he defeated Albert Montanes to reach the quarter-finals of the ATP Rio Open.
The world number one broke fellow Spaniard Montanes three times in each set and won the final four games of the match to record a comfortable 6-1 6-2 win inside 74 minutes.
However Nadal, who will now meet Portugal’s 48th-ranked Joao Sousa in the last-eight of the clay-court tournament in Brazil, confirmed that he is still feeling the effects of the back injury which played a part in his disappointing final defeat to Stanislas Wawrinka in Melbourne at the end of last month.
The 13-time Grand Slam champion said: “When you get injured in the final of a Grand Slam and stop for two-and-a-half weeks, it is not easy to come back.
“The back is still bothering me a little bit but I am happy with my decision to be here.”
Nadal, who is available at 1.10 to defeat Sousa in the -1.5 set Handicap market, will be hoping that he can go on and win in Rio, which he is using as preparation for his bid to win a ninth career French Open crown from May 25.