HAMBURG (AFP) - Rafael Nadal will mark his return to Hamburg after a seven-year absence with a tough opener against compatriot Fernando Verdasco.
Nadal, down at No. 10 in the tennis world after a tortuous year in which he lost his French Open title and suffered another early exit from Wimbledon, has decided to play the clay-court tournament in a bid to resurrect his fortunes before heading for the US hard-court season.
Nadal, 29, has a 13-2 career lead over Verdasco but his compatriot has won their last two clashes - on the hard courts of Miami earlier this year and on clay in Madrid in 2012.
In his last visit to the German city, Nadal defeated Roger Federer in the 2008 final.
He is 11-2 at the tournament, having only lost to Federer in 2007 and to former Roland Garros champion Gaston Gaudio in 2003.
"I am very happy to be back in Hamburg, I haven't been here since 2008 so it's great to be back in such a nice city. I have great memories about this tournament," Nadal told www.atpworldtour.com on Sunday.
"I think probably defeating Carlos Moya in 2003 was a very important match for me at the time but also I remember very well the match against Novak Djokovic in 2008 which was very emotional."
In his first tournament since Wimbledon, Nadal will be playing doubles also in Hamburg.
He is set to partner 18-year-old Jaume Munar, who also hails from Mallorca.
"I feel good, there are no problems. I look forward to this week," said Nadal.
The Spaniard has already been defeated 12 times this year, including just a second career loss at Roland Garros and a second-round exit to German journeyman Dustin Brown at Wimbledon.
In 2014, Nadal was beaten just 11 times. He was defeated only seven times in 2013 and lost a mere six matches in the whole of 2012.
"I need to accept that it is a new situation and face it with a good attitude and keep working hard to return to a good level," said Nadal.
"I feel good. I don't have any injuries and that is the important thing."