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Rafael Nadal returning to play in South America _ this time in Rio de Janeiro

Rafael Nadal is returning to South America to play early next year in the inaugural Rio Open.

Nadal began his comeback from a left-knee injury seven months ago in Chile. This time he'll be playing in Brazil under far different conditions as the defending U.S. Open and French Open champion.

The Feb. 15-23 clay-court tournament is a combined ATP and WTA event and will be played at the Jockey Club Brasileiro. Fellow Spaniard David Ferrer is also in the field.