MASON, Ohio -- It will take pointier heads than Rafael Nadal's to expound -- using big words and complicated calculations -- on his striking rebound from the knee problems that kept him off the professional tennis tour for seven months last season.
Nadal himself offers no profound insights. "I cannot say what is the key because I really don't know," he said.
He is back to No. 3 in the world, looking no farther down the road than the U.S. Open tune-up event here this week. That the Montreal title he won Sunday was his eighth in 11 tournaments since his return -- and his 10th advance to a final -- provides no special insight, he said, about attempts to tailor his hardcourt schedule to his chronic knee issues.
"Nothing is sure on that," he said. "In a sport like tennis, my feeling is: Everybody who says, 'I find the perfect schedule,' everybody's lying.
"Because, in tennis, you don't know if you will play one match, two, three, four or five in a tournament. You can lose in the first round and the schedule is changing a lot."
Furthermore, he does not claim to have solved the game of top-ranked Novak Djokovic, whom Nadal defeated in the Montreal semifinals, as well as in the French Open semis on his way his 12th career major title two months ago.
"It is very difficult to find a reason for that," Nadal said. "I'm enjoying the competition. I'm enjoying these kinds of matches and this time I was able to win. That's all."
Veteran Mardy Fish, Tuesday discussing his own free-fall from the sport's Top Ten to his current No. 129 while struggling psychologically and physically since a frightening heart incident 17 months ago, marveled at "how amazing Rafa has been, coming back after seven months off. To do what he's done is just not normal."
Nadal was ousted, shockingly, from Wimbledon's first round in June, losing to 135th-ranked Belgian Steve Darcis. But, compared to his other results since February, that seems more a function of the wave of early upsets in London than any hint of a Nadal fade from Grand Slam contention at 27.
"The only thing I can say," Nadal said, "is that I always thought, during the seven months that I will work hard to be back strong. You come back and you don't know how you will be."
He guessed that the "excitement to be back on the tour" was helpful "after a period of time that you were not allowed to do what you really want to do.
"When I come back, go outside every court around the world and watch the stadium full, big crowd supporting, is more and more special than before the injury happened," he said.
"Because, before was completely normal to have every week. But after seven, eight months without enjoying that feeling, you come back and feel that, that gives you a lot of positive energy."
Maybe absence makes the knee grow stronger.