The new world number one was mobbed by hundreds of fans when his car arrived at Queen’s Club following his train journey from Paris where he beat Robin Soderling in Sunday’s final on clay.
Despite steady rain, the Spaniard headed out to the practice courts where Queen’s Club head groundsman Graham Kimpton asked him: “You don’t want to play, do you?”
When the 2008 Queen’s champion nodded, Kimpton laughed and ordered his team to put the nets back up. Nadal swiped fearsome forehands and backhands at his hitting partner for 20 minutes before the unrelenting rain and fading light persuaded him to call a halt.
“I am very happy to come back to this very nice club and to be back on grass, which is one of my favourite surfaces,” said Nadal.
“The conditions were not easy to practise in today and I want to thank the tournament organisers very much for letting me. I know that it’s not the best for the court, but for me it was very important to make contact with the new surface.”
Nadal, the top seed, has a bye into the second round and will face Marcos Daniel of Brazil on Wednesday.