18th of February 2013 Author: Johnny Karp
Rafael Nadal won his first title since last year's French Open as he defeated David Nalbandian in straight sets in the final of the Brazil Open. The Spanish former number one, playing only his second tournament following a seven-month absence with a knee injury, beat Nalbandian 6-2 6-3 in Sao Paulo.
Nadal broke twice in the first set and recovered superbly from 3-0 down in the second set to win in just one hour and 18 minutes. Nadal is next scheduled to play at the Mexican Open, starting on 25 February. The 11-time Grand Slam winner has chosen to return to action on the clay courts he likes best, making the final in Chile last week before losing to world number 73 Horacio Zeballos.
The 26-year-old Spaniard says he was satisfied at ending the week with his 51st tournament victory. "I'll definitely enjoy this one because of all the problems that I've gone through with the knee," said Nadal, who won the second Brazil title after winning it in 2005 as well. "When I won for the first time here I was just starting and hopefully this will mark a new beginning." Nalbandian said after the match: "I didn't play my best match today, Rafa was much better. I was ahead in the second set but I couldn't take advantage of it."
Nadal said after his semi-final that the knee was still troubling him and that he had the same problems in the final. "When the knee is feeling better like today I feel like that I can do more of the things that I used to do my entire life," he said. "If the pain is bearable like it was today, then it's fine."
Asked whether he feels ready to compete with the 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. I just need time to continue improving and return to a more competitive level."
Nadal will be targeting an eighth French Open title in June, you can already bet on the winner in Paris at Bet365. Here are the odds for the top three favourites:
Rafael Nadal - 11/10
Novak Djokovic - 5/4
Andy Murray - 8/1
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