Out-of-form Nadal insists he's not worried about virus outbreak ahead of Rio Open
Rio de Janeiro: Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal insisted yesterday that he was not worried about by Brazil's Zika virus outbreak as they prepare to compete at the Rio Open ATP tournament this week.
Spain's Rafael Nadal waves to fans as he leaves the court after losing to Fernando Verdasco in the Australian Open last month. Pic/AFP
"I'm not at all afraid," Nadal (29) told a press conference.
"I go out at night, and I know there's a risk, but I'm just happy to be back here again. If I get sick well then that's just bad luck," insisted the 14-time Grand Slam winner.
"I can see for myself that people here are going about their business as if everything was okay, so things can't be that bad. People are going to the beach, going out for walks, having dinner in restaurants," the World No 5 continued.
World No 6 David Ferrer, also agreed with his compatriot. Ferrer said he had been reassured by Brazil's efforts to wipe out the mosquitoes which carry the virus.
"We've been told that everything possible has been done so that there will be no mosquitoes, which is comforting," he said. "We've been wearing long trousers at night but I'm not getting obsessed by the whole thing."
Brazil has been most affected by the outbreak that has spread rapidly through Latin America and the Caribbean, with 1.5 million people in the country infected since early 2015.
While it causes only mild flu-like symptoms in most people, scientists suspect when it strikes a pregnant woman, it can cause her baby to be born with microcephaly, or an abnormally small head.
"The whole thing seems to have been blown out of proportion," Nadal said.
"The reality is that we are here in Rio for an international tennis tournament and I'm here and I can see that everything looks totally normal," he insisted.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Saturday vowed that the virus would not jeopardise the all-important Rio Olympics in August.
Rio de Janeiro: Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal is facing a 'must win' tournament, as the Rio Open gets underway. Nadal, currently fifth ranked in the world, lost in the semis of the Argentina Open this weekend 4-6, 6-4, 6-7 to Dominic Thiem, who went on to lift the title.
Thiem will also be in action in Rio this week, as will clay court specialists David Ferrer and Fabio Fognini. The tournament is Nadal's fifth appearance in Brazil, where he holds a 17-1 record.
He has won titles in Costa do Sauipe in 2005, Sao Paulo in 2013 and Rio de Janeiro in 2014. Nadal's only defeat on Brazilian soil came last year, against Fognini.