London: Horacio Zeballos produced a stunning upset to deny Rafael Nadal victory in his comeback tournament from injury and illness at the VTR Open in Chile.
Nadal had looked relatively untroubled en route to the final and was the overwhelming favourite to end a positive return to competitive tennis after seven months out with the title at Vina del Mar.
But Zeballos was clearly not overawed by facing the 11-time Grand Slam champion and defied the odds to triumph 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 for his first ATP Tour crown. “It’s a dream for me,” Zeballos said.
“To be able to play a final against Nadal was already good enough for me. It’s a moment that will stay in my memory for the rest of my life.”
Zeballos did not progress beyond the second round in any of the tour-level events last year, but had already beaten three seeds en route to the showpiece encounter.
He saved his best performance of the week for Nadal — who before this week, had not played a competitive match since suffering a shock second-round defeat to Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon last year due to injury and a stomach virus, an illness which ruled him out of last month’s Australian Open.