Rafael Nadal wins 1st title since return from injury

Rafael  Nadal

The last time Rafael Nadal won in Brazil, it was at the very start of the most dominant clay-court career tennis has ever seen. Eight years later, Nadal hopes his second title here will mark the restart.

Nadal beat David Nalbandian 6-2, 6-3 in the final of the Brazil Open on Sunday, his first trophy since returning from a seven-month layoff to treat his left knee. While this indoor clay-court tournament is much smaller than those he has grown used to winning, Nadal thrust his arms into the air and pumped his fist after Nalbandian sent a shot long to give the Spaniard his 51st singles title.

His second also came in this event in 2005, when he was still relatively unknown, and he went on to win the first of his seven French Open titles months later.

"Brazil will always be in my heart," Nadal said. "Big things started to happen after I won here in 2005 and hopefully this is the start of something good again."

Nadal needed the lengthy layoff to treat a partially torn and inflamed tendon in his knee, and his comeback was then further postponed by an illness. He returned to play in Chile last week, losing in the final of both the singles and doubles tournaments.

So lifting a trophy again felt extra good this time. " 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 first title since winning the French Open for the seventh time last June. Thirty-seven of his titles have been on clay.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 and close out and match in 1 hour, 18 minutes.

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