Rafa Nadal overcame a slow start to beat Argentine Federico Delbonis 6-3, 6-2 and advance to the third round of the Chilean Open with his first singles victory in seven months on Wednesday.
Nadal lost his serve in the first game, but quickly hit back, taking command of the match and winning the first set in 50 minutes at the Pacific resort city of Vina del Mar.
The French Open champion seemed surprised when Delbonis took a 2-0 lead, but with some fierce shots he put things in their place.
The former world No. 1 began to vary his game and showed greater mobility in a one-sided second set which he wrapped up in 38 minutes.
“I feel happy to be playing singles again. It’s been an important day for me,” Nadal told local TV after the match.
“Thanks for supporting me. I’d never dreamed of a comeback like this,” he added in front of an ecstatic crowd. “It was a tough start. Federico played really well and forced me to run a lot.”
Nadal took advantage of four of his 11 chances to break Delbonis’ serve.
The Spanish left-hander had been out with a knee injury since losing to Czech Lukas Rosol in the second round at Wimbledon in June last year.
“I’m happy the knee responded well,” Nadal said.
In the quarter-finals, Nadal is set to play against the winner of yesterday’s match between Spaniards Albert Montanes and Daniel Gimeno-Traver.
OPEN SUD DE FRANCE
AP, MONTPELLIER, France
Jarkko Nieminen of Finland beat fifth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko 6-3, 7-6 (8) in the second round of the Open Sud de France on Wednesday, defeating the Russian for the first time in 10 years and reaching his second quarter-final of the season.
Davydenko will next face either Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine or Japan’s Tatsuma Ito.
Eighth-seeded Benoit Paire of France also advanced to the last eight, saving one match point on his way to a 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 win against Belgium’s Steve Darcis. He next plays either qualifier Arnau Brugues-Davi of Spain or fourth-seeded Gilles Simon of France.
In first-round play, sixth-seeded Julien Benneteau of France led 6-3, 4-2 when Romania’s Adrian Ungur retired with a thigh injury, seventh-seeded Viktor Troicki of Serbia beat Lucas Pouille of France 6-4, 7-5, and Brugues-Davi of Spain ousted Mikhail Kukushkin 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (3).
Ito defeated Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5 to reach the second round, while Michael Llodra beat Kenny De Schepper 6-3, 6-3 in an all-French match to set up a meeting with second-seeded Janko Tipsarevic.
? ZAGREB INDOORS
AP, ZAGREB, Croatia
Defending champion Mikhail Youzhny beat Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-2 in the second round on Wednesday to become the first quarter-finalist at the Zagreb Indoors.
The third-seeded Russian conceded only three points on his first serve as his record at the tournament improved to 10-4.
In first-round matches, sixth-seeded Marcos Baghdatis from Cyprus rallied to defeat Germany’s Tobias Kamke 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-4.
Kamke converted his second set point in the tiebreaker to take the lead, but could not keep up the pressure. Baghdatis won all 29 points on his first serve in the second and third sets.
“I did not expect him to play so good, I was a bit surprised,” said Baghdatis, who was the 2007 champion here. “He was very aggressive ... I needed time to adjust.”
Robin Haase of the Netherlands also came back from one set down to defeat Croatian wild card Antonio Veic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. Flavio Cipolla made it to the second round after Lukas Lacko of Slovakia — who reached the final in Zagreb last year — retired at 1-1 in the first set because of a back injury.