Kuala Lumpur: David Ferrer predicted on Tuesday that fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal would come back better than ever after injury and could even surpass current world number one Roger Federer in the record books.
Federer, 31, has won 17 Grand Slam titles plus a host of other tennis crowns. His great rival Nadal, five years younger, has 11 Slams to his name but has suffered badly with injury for the past year.
"At this moment, Federer is the best player in the world but Nadal can possibly break his record as he is still young," said Ferrer, the top seed at the Malaysian Open who has bagged five ATP titles this season.
Nadal said in an interview published on Tuesday that he has not picked up a racket since limping out of Wimbledon nearly three months ago and will only return to competition once he is fully fit.
He has been receiving treatment for a torn tendon in his left knee and has not given a comeback date, though there have been suggestions it could be November.
Whenever he does return, Ferrer believes his compatriot will be better for taking time out from the hectic ATP schedule.
"I too am tired as I played a lot of matches," said Ferrer, the world No. 5. "I had a one-week break before coming here and will then go to China, where I will play in Beijing and Shanghai.
"I don't have much time to indulge in my favourite past time -- supporting my home football club, Valencia. I wish I could watch them more often but it is not easy."
Ferrer, who received a first-round bye in Kuala Lumpur, will begin his campaign in the $947,750 competition on Thursday.
In Tuesday's first-round matches, Albert Ramos of Spain, Australian Matthew Ebden and Frenchman Julien Benneteau all made it through without dropping a set.
Seventh seed Benneteau edged Argentine Carlos Berlocq 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 in 90 minutes to book his second-round ticket.