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Spain's Rafael Nadal beat Argentina's David Nalbandian 6-2, 6-3 Sunday in the final of the Brazil Open, notching his first title on the comeback trail from a serious knee injury.
"I hope this will be the beginning of a good start," Nadal told the crowd, which included his father, Sebastian, after the match.
The 26-year-old Nadal, the world No. 5, rolled over the 31-year-old Nalbandian, who is also mounting a comeback after a months-long absence from the ATP Tour, in the first set.
The win capped "a very beautiful week," the Spaniard said, adding that he wanted to thank all those who accompanied him during "these complicated times."
Nalbandian played Nadal to 3-3 in the second set, but the Spaniard then stepped it up and took control of the match.
The crowd at Sao Paulo's Ibirapuera arena went wild when Nadal won match point and threw his arms in the air.
Nadal and Nalbandian entered the Brazil Open doubles draw but withdrew after winning their opening match because the Spaniard wanted to avoid overtaxing his knee.
The Spaniard, coming off a seven-month hiatus from the ATP Tour due to injury and illness, had not been victorious at a tournament since last June, when he won his 7th French Open title.
Nadal went off the ATP Tour due to a knee injury after suffering a shock second-round exit at last year's Wimbledon at the hands of unheralded Czech Lukas Rosol, considered one of the biggest upsets in the history of that prestigious tournament.
He had planned to return to action in late December in Abu Dhabi, but a stomach virus forced him to withdraw from that exhibition tournament and he also pulled out of the recently concluded Australian Open.
The Brazil Open is the second of three Latin American clay-court events Nadal signed up to play in February.
The Spanish star was upset in the final of Viña del Mar - his first tournament back - by Argentina's Horacio Zeballos. He also is scheduled to participate in the Mexican Open later this month.
Known for his physically demanding style of play and outstanding defensive skills, Nadal has struggled to stay healthy during his career and has been forced to withdraw from each of the four Grand Slam events due to various injuries. EFE