Nadal wins first tournament since return from knee injury
Spaniard beats David Nalbandian in Brazil, but is still some way short of his best after seven months out
RAFAEL NADAL won his first tour event since returning from seven months on the sidelines with a knee injury on Sunday. The Spaniard beat Argentinian David Nalbandian 6-2, 6-3 in the final of the Brazil Open to claim his first trophy since winning the French Open last year.
The 26-year-old made his comeback on the clay courts he favours earlier this month in a tournament in Chile. He lost the final of that event but claimed his 51st singles title in Sao Paulo.
He won the same title back in his breakthrough year of 2005 and said he hoped this win would "mark a new beginning" for him. "It's a great title and important for me," added Nadal, who admitted that his knee had troubled him after his semi-final.
The Spaniard's next event will be a third clay-court tournament in Mexico starting later this month, as he works towards defending his title in Paris in June. His first outing on hard courts will be at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, in March.
"Nadal is still not quite there in terms of movement and execution of shots but he is calling upon his fighting spirit and is running down as many balls as he can," noted The Times. The BBC agreed and said that "his form remained some way short of his best".
But there were glimpses of his old self. "Nadal struggled to find a rhythm in the beginning but was still able to break Nalbandian's serve twice to take the first set, then rallied from 3-0 down in the second to win six straight games," said The Guardian.
Tennishead magazine noted that despite fears over his fitness after he pulled out of the doubles he showed "no signs of injury" during the final.