Rafael Nadal was twice a loser on finals day at the former top-ranked tennis player’s comeback tournament following a seven-month injury layoff.
Nadal lost 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 to Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos yesterday at the VTR Open in Vina del Mar, Chile. The Spaniard then partnered Juan Monaco in the doubles final, which was won by Italians Paolo Lorenzi and Potito Starace.
“It was a great tournament for me,” Nadal said in a news conference. “If we take everything, it was positive. I wanted to win the final, but it wasn’t possible.”
Nadal, 26, had been sidelined since June 2012 with a partially torn patella tendon and knee inflammation, making his last tournament appearance at Wimbledon. Nadal, who dropped to fifth in the world rankings during his absence, decided to make his comeback at the clay-court tournament because the surface is more forgiving on joints and knees than hard courts.
The top seed in the 28-player field, Nadal had beaten Federico Delbonis of Argentina, fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno- Traver and Jeremy Chardy of France in straight sets to reach the final, where 73rd-ranked Zeballos broke serve in the final game to secure his first career ATP World Tour title and join Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic as the only players to beat Nadal in an ATP clay-court final.
An 11-time Grand Slam singles champion, Nadal has won a men’s record seven French Open titles on the sport’s slowest surface. He was seeking his 37th clay-court title in Chile.
Nadal, who missed the London Olympics, U.S. Open and Australian Open, will play in this week’s Brazil Open and in Acapulco, Mexico, from Feb. 25. He said earlier last week that he’s not yet thinking about defending his title at Roland Garros in May.
“I just need to keep working, practicing with hope, motivation and the right attitude to have better sensations every week,” Nadal said yesterday. “I hope it’s the beginning of a lot of good things for me.”
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