Rafael Nadal beat David Nalbandian in the Brazil Open final to secure his first tennis title since winning last year’s French Open.
Top-seeded Nadal, playing only his second tournament following a seven-month absence because of a knee injury, defeated the Argentine 6-2, 6-3 yesterday in Sao Paulo to win his 37th clay-court career title.
The 11-time Grand Slam champion chose to make his comeback on his favored surface this month and last week reached the final in Chile, where he lost to Horacio Zeballos, then ranked No. 73. Yesterday’s victory gave Nadal his first trophy since winning his men’s record seventh French Open in June 2012.
“At the end of your career what’s left are the titles, and depending on certain moments there are some titles that you appreciate very much,” Nadal, 26, said in comments distributed by the ATP World Tour. “This one I appreciate it the most because of all the struggles I went through during the week, with some problems with my knee some days.”
Nadal, who dropped to No. 5 in the world during his absence, is next scheduled to play at the Mexican Open starting Feb. 25 in Acapulco. He had been sidelined with a partially torn patella tendon and knee inflammation that forced him to miss the London Olympics, U.S. Open and Australian Open.
Nadal said he’s taking a week-by-week approach to his schedule as he tries to manage his knee. Following the early-season clay swing through South America and Mexico, the men’s tour heads to the U.S. in March for Masters hard-court tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami.
“I am not in a position to think too far ahead,” Nadal added. “I need to think day by day, week by week. Let’s see how my knee feels in Acapulco. We will analyze at the end of this clay swing what happened in these last three tournaments and I will see if I am ready to play in Indian Wells.”