Rafael Nadal showed he is back in business by clinching his first title since ending a seven-month knee injury layoff, winning the Brazil Open on Sunday.
The Spanish former world No. 1, who has yet to fully shrug off the lingering effects of his knee problems, beat Argentina’s David Nalbandian 6-2, 6-3 in 78 minutes.
Nadal went on the attack from the start, breaking his opponent’s service before racing to take the first set.
Nalbandian, a former world No. 3 who now languishes at 93 in the ATP rankings, fought back early in the second set, but Nadal came from behind to win, sparking wild cheers from the crowd.
Nadal was the top seed in the tournament, his second comeback event following his long absence.
He competed in the Vina del Mar Open in Chile earlier this month, losing the singles and doubles finals.
“It’s a great title and important for me,” the 26-year-old said. “Yesterday, [during the semi-final] the knee hurt. Today, it’s better, rather bearable. I am happy to win in Brazil for the second time.”
The world No. 5 first won the event in 2005, when it was held in Costa do Sauipe in Bahia State.
Asked about his future plans, Nadal replied: “I am going to think about Acapulco [later this month] and nothing else.”
As to whether he feels confident enough now to compete against the world’s top three of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, Nadal said: “We are going to see how the knee responds and then take stock.”
“I don’t have any problem playing against better rivals because I accept that I can lose. Losing is not a problem for me,” Nadal said. “I just need time to continue improving and return to a more competitive level.”
Nadal was back on the court in Chile earlier this month for the first time since suffering a second-round exit at Wimbledon in June last year.
Since then, he had been sidelined by a torn tendon and inflammation in his left knee, with his return further delayed by a stomach virus.
His absence ruled him out of the Olympics, the US Open as well as last month’s Australian Open.
Earlier, Brazilian Bruno Soares teamed up with Austrian Alexander Peya to win the doubles final against Frantisek Cermak of the Czech Republic and Slovak Michal Mertinak 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 10-7.
? ROTTERDAM WORLD TENNIS
AFP, ROTTERDAM, the Netherlands
Juan Martin del Potro underlined his indoor credentials as he overcame a bleeding nose to beat Frenchman Julien Benneteau 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 in the Rotterdam World Tennis final on Sunday.
Del Potro, the 2009 US Open winner, claimed his fourth trophy indoors, but had to play the last game with a nostril packed with cotton wool after suffering another of his occasional nosebleeds.
In the previous game, Benneteau had saved four match points in a desperate attempt to pick up his first title in eight ATP finals.
Del Potro, the second seed, could barely contain his joy after winning in Rotterdam a year after losing the final to Roger Federer.
However, this time the Swiss star had fallen in the quarter-finals to Benneteau, leaving the way clear for Del Potro.
“It feels amazing, it was a big goal for me to win this title after losing the final last year,” Del Potro said.
“I’m so happy to be the champion. I’m feeling very confident with my serve, hopefully for the rest of the season,” he said.
“Today, I did lose serve for the first time this week, but finals are tough to play. I played perhaps my worst tennis of the week at the start of the match, I came out very nervous, but I fought back. Later on, I started feeling very confident and in control all the time,” the Argentine said.