• VTR Open

Nadal misses out on comeback title

ESPN staff
February 10, 2013
Rafael Nadal tired in Sunday's final © Getty Images

Rafael Nadal failed to complete his comeback week on the ATP Tour with a trophy at the VTR Open, losing Sunday's final to Horacio Zeballos.

Nadal ended a seven-month spell on the sidelines by returning to action in Vina del Mar, but his lack of sustained competition showed as he tired in a 6-7(2) 7-6(6) 6-4 defeat. The Spaniard had not dropped a set all week, but he was outlasted by Zeballos in a match lasting nearly three hours.

Reigning French Open champion Nadal warned at the start of the week that any thoughts of defending his Roland Garros crown were "light years away". And after he failed to lift his 37th clay-court singles title, he will know he is far from 100 per cent fit.

Nadal made a much better start to the final than he did his semi-final encounter with Jeremy Chardy, when he coughed up three double-faults in his opening service game. This time the Spaniard was confident when holding serve, which he did throughout the first set.

Indeed neither player found a service break in the opening stanza as Zeballos created the only two chances, so a tiebreaker was necessary to settle matters. Nadal found another gear - as is his trademark - on the big points and stormed the breaker for a one-set lead.

Nadal became more threatening in the second, striking the ball sweetly from the back of the court to create a couple of openings on the Zeballos delivery, but once more a tiebreaker was needed. This time Zeballos, powered by a thunderous serve, created three set points, converting the third.

After two sets without a single break, the decider opened up with both players immediately losing their serve as the scores advanced to 1-1. Zeballos - perhaps unsurprisingly after Nadal's long layoff - appeared the growing force as he created further break chances deep into the match.

Nadal initially rescued one such situation to stay level at 4-4, but after Zeballos raced through his next service game to love, the pressure was back on the Spaniard. This time Nadal buckled, allowing Zeballos to seal his maiden ATP Tour triumph.

The former world No. 1 returned to action later in the day for the doubles final and he and Juan Monaco were beaten 6-2 6-4 by Paolo Lorenzi and Potito Starace.

Earlier in the day, Richard Gasquet became the first man to win two ATP Tour titles this season after he added the Open Sud de France crown to his earlier win at the Qatar Open. Gasquet beat Benoit Paire of France 6-2 6-3 and now boasts an impressive 14-1 record this year.

The third seed dropped two points on serve in a lop-sided first set and consistently broke his rival throughout the contest. He eventually closed out the match at the second time of asking to clinch victory in 69 minutes.

At the Zagreb Indoors, Marin Cilic sealed his third triumph at his home event, dominating Jurgen Melzer for a comfortable 6-3 6-1 victory. Cilic dropped eight points on serve in the entire match, breaking four times to clinch his ninth ATP Tour title in 66 minutes.

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