Rio de Janeiro: Rafael Nadal returned from a troublesome back injury to win the Rio Open on Sunday, defeating Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 6-3, 7-6 (3).
Nadal’s victory comes four weeks after losing the Australian Open final to underdog Stanislas Wawrinka, where he tweaked his back while warming up.
Nadal, who had to fend off two match points in the semi-final against Pablo Andujar, looked more comfortable in the final and improved his record on clay to 298 wins and 21 losses, the best in the Open Era.
The Spaniard declined to talk about his back, focusing instead on the victory. “Clearly, it was important for me to get back and win after what happened in the final in Australia,” Nadal said.
He said the heat, the court preparation and the quick balls used in the event made it difficult. He has complained about the fast balls all week.
Nadal has won three times in Brazil and hopes to return next year. He’s also eyeing the 2016 Rio Olympics where he’d seek a second gold medal. He won gold in 2008 in Beijing.
“I leave with the sensation that Brazil is something special for me,” he said.
Top-ranked Nadal used the Latin American clay-court swing to launch his comeback a year ago from a left knee injury. It went just fine with titles in the French and US Open.
He’ll take the same approach this time, hoping injuries don’t slow him heading to the French Open in three months.
Nadal went into the match with a 4-0 winning record against Dolgopolov with the Ukrainian never having even broken the world No.1’s service.
And the Spaniard was on top quickly in the first set, breaking Dolgopolov’s second service game to love as the Ukrainian made a succession of unforced errors.
Dolgopolov could find no rhythm against Nadal’s trademark topspins on the Rio clay and made little inroads into the world No.1’s service games as he raced into a 4-1 lead in less than 20 minutes.
The second set followed a similar pattern, as Nadal broke Dolgopolov in his second service game, taking it with a drilled backhand that Dolgopolov was unable to dig out at his feet. (Agencies)