Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal will compete in the Rio OpenGetty

Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal, who will play in the Rio open this week, has downplayed public concerns over risks linked to the Zika virus, saying "people are living completely normal lives". Brazil has been the focal point for the virus and with Rio de Janeiro set to host the Olympics later in the year, many athletes across the world have expressed reservations about travelling to the South American country for the event.

This has not deterred tennis superstar Nadal though, who has become one of the first major sports figures to compete in the city, since reports confirmed that the virus has travelled through Brazil to other parts of the Americas.

"I'm doing the things people have told me, I'm going out at night. I'm not scared. I'm not worried about this. If it happens, it's bad luck," Nadal told reporters as quoted by CTV News.

"I see people conducting their lives normally, I see people walking, people on the beach, people in the restaurants, people having completely normal lives," he further added.

Northeast Brazil has seen a surge of infants being born with birth defects, which health officials say is linked to the mosquito-borne virus. Zika has been declared a global public health emergency that puts it in the same category as Ebola. No vaccine or treatment exists for the virus at present.

The former world number one has qualified in the singles and will return to Rio to compete in this summer's Olympics. Nadal, who won the inaugural Rio Open in 2014, will face Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta in the first round on 16 February, Tuesday.