FOUR-TIME champion Roger Federer was delighted to welcome back to the ATP Tour his long-time rival Rafael Nadal, a man he could face in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
Spaniard Nadal has slipped to fifth in the world rankings after being sidelined for seven months last year due to a left knee injury and is seeded to meet Federer in the last eight of the elite ATP Masters 1000 event in the California desert.
"I only just saw him yesterday after my practice, I was really excited to see him again," Swiss world No. 2 Federer told reporters at Indian Wells on Thursday as the men's tournament began.
"We haven't had much contact. I think he really wanted to get away from it all, which I totally understand. I was really happy to see him doing so well in Acapulco and it's great to see him here playing on the hardcourts. I'm hoping to catch up with him this week."
Left-hander Nadal returned to the ATP circuit last month in South America where he competed in three relatively minor claycourt events, winning two of them, including in Acapulco, after reaching all three finals.
While Federer and Nadal, as seeded players, have a bye into the second round, former world No. 3 David Nalbandian of Argentina advanced with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Spaniard Marcel Granollers in the first round.
Also progressing was twice former champion Lleyton Hewitt, who battled past Czech Lukas Rosol 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.