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Nadal practises patience in cautious recovery

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DUBAI, Feb 27 (Reuters) World number two Rafael Nadal is prepared to be patient in only his second tournament since recovering from a career-threatening foot injury.

The Spanish teenager is competing at the Dubai Open this week after losing in the semi-finals in Marseille earlier this month when he returned from almost four months out of the game.

Nadal acknowledges it may be some time before he can return to the level he reached last year when he won 11 titles including the French Open.

''I don't feel at my best level yet, but that's normal after not playing for three months,'' he said.

''In Marseille I won some matches and that was very important for my confidence, for my comeback. I don't feel pain in my foot. That's the most important thing.'' Nadal does not intend to change the all-out aggressive style that has made him a huge crowd favourite, despite the risk of further injuries.

''My game is my game and it is not easy to change that,'' Nadal said.

''I don't feel a lot of pressure on me now. For sure I want to play good, I want to win a lot of matches.

''But it's not easy when you've had no competition and been without play at the best level for three months.

''Now it's a comeback and I am very happy to still play.

Every match is a special match for me.'' While most of his rivals were playing at the Australian Open last month, Nadal visited the United States to help develop shoes that should prevent his injury occurring again.

''I flew from Mallorca to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Chicago, Chicago to Portland. I arrived at seven in the afternoon and went directly to do some tests on the foot,'' he said.

''I finished at 11 at night, had dinner and at six in the morning I went Portland to Chicago, Chicago to Munich, Munich to Barcelona, Barcelona to Mallorca.

''The shoe is not perfect yet. It's not the final version and there are a few more details to work on.'' REUTERS PM HS0933

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