Tuesday February 19, 2013
Nadal clinches first title after return from injury
SAO PAULO: 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 number one, 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 thrust his arms into the air and pumped his fist after Nalbandian sent a shot long to give the Spaniard his second title at the indoor clay-court tournament. He also won the event in 2005.
“I’ll definitely enjoy this one because of all the problems that I’ve gone through with the knee,” Nadal said. “When I won for the first time here I was just starting and hopefully this will mark a new beginning.”
It was Nadal’s 51st singles title, and first since winning the French Open for the seventh time last June.
Currently the world number five, Nadal went on the attack from the start, breaking his opponent’s service before racing to take the first set.
The 31-year-old Nalbandian, a former world number three 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.
The Spaniard pocketed a check for US$82,300 for his win and thanked the public for “the great support” he received throughout the tournament.
Nadal was the top seed in this US$455,775 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 last Sunday.
“It’s a great title and important for me,” said the 26-year-old.
“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 number five, who has 11 Grand Slam titles under his belt, first won the event in 2005, when it was held in Costa do Sauipe in eastern Bahia state.
Asked about his future plans, Nadal, who now has 37 claycourt titles in a 51-trophy career haul, 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,” added Nadal.
“I just need time to continue improving and return to a more competitive level.” — AFP