Nadal encouraged by pace of recovery

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Rafael Nadal is eager to trade in his backstroke for his backhand.

Swimming as part of his rehabilitation from a left knee injury, Nadal, 26, said he has been more encouraged recently about his progress and hopes to resume practice soon.

"I don't want to put any goals to play a tournament," Nadal said Tuesday. "I want to go day by day. I go every day to the gym and the swimming pool to continue with my recovery."

Nadal spoke from his home in Mallorca during a conference call to promote his participation in an exhibition in New York in March. He also has said he'll enter an exhibition in Abu Dhabi in late December.

The 11-time Grand Slam champion hasn't played since losing in the second round of Wimbledon in June. A partially torn patella tendon forced him to miss the Olympics, where he was the defending gold medalist, and the U.S. Open, where he was the 2010 champion and '11 runner-up.

Because of his long layoff, Nadal figures he'll likely need to hit balls for several weeks at least before he returns to competition.

"I will need a period of time of practice," he said. "I don't know if that will take a few weeks or one month and a half."

Nadal has battled recurring knee trouble for years and finds hard-court matches especially difficult. But he said he can't curtail his playing schedule if he wants to keep contending for a top ranking. "I can make a few adjustments, but not much. It's very difficult to think about a completely different calendar for me."

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