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First-Time Winner Spotlight: Horacio Zeballos

Vina del Mar, Chile

Zeballos© C. Pincheira/VTR OpenHoracio Zeballos won his first ATP World Tour title in Vina del Mar.

Horacio Zeballos toppled Rafael Nadal 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-4 on Sunday to claim his first ATP World Tour title at the VTR Open in Vina del Mar. Zeballos became just the third player to defeat Nadal in a clay-court final, joining Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic caught up with the new champion following his victory.

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How does it feel to win your first ATP World Tour title, beating arguably the best clay court player in history?
It is an incredible feeling. I had never imagined being able to win a title or defeating the best clay court player in history. The feeling is unique. I wish this moment could stop in time and never end, but if it stops, I will for sure remember it my whole life.

Now almost an hour after the match, how many texts have you received?
My phone battery died from all the texts that I was receiving from my family and friends, so I’m now charging it and I imagine I will continue to receive more texts from my friends.

You are 27.  As a youngster growing up, was it always a dream to win an ATP World Tour title?
I think that I never imagined winning a title. When I was little I always dreamed the simple thing of being on a tennis court… And getting to a final, and having Rafa in front of me, who I’ve seen so many times on TV, is what I’ve always dreamed.
Not only was it your first title, it was also your first Top 10 win. How does that feel?
That’s a very nice fact you just told me, I didn’t know. Like I said, is a unique feeling, I’m still thinking that I will wake up at any moment.

The last Argentine to beat Rafa on clay was Gaston Gaudio in 2005. What are your thoughts on that accomplishment?
Wow, so much time has passed, no? This is very nice to know… Beating Rafa is the most important victory of my career and it will most likely be the most important one of my entire career.

You played Rafa at Roland Garros and lost in straight sets, so what was your game plan going into today’s match?
I tried to aim at all the lines and make all of them (laughs). I also think I was a little lucky. But I also have to point out that I felt very good psychologically. I stood the whole match and the pressure of playing against Rafa. I think that this had to do a lot with it, staying calm.

Three of your five wins during the week were in three sets and you beat four seeds en route to the title. What did you do well to win those matches?
I feel like I’m in the top of my physical condition and I noticed that in the long matches. This makes me feel calm… and the maturity that I gained through the years helped me as well.

You are only the third player to beat Rafa in a clay-court final, joining Djokovic and Federer (twice each). What does that mean to you?
It’s a dream, it cannot be real…. playing against them it’s a honor and now being able to win makes me too happy.

You were in the Top 50 in 2009 and then dropped off the last three years. What is your goal for this season?
To enjoy tennis, keep playing, and sharing this with all the best players of the world… This is my only goal. I just want to enjoy myself.
Growing up, who were your idols and what did you like about their games?
There are so many players. I tried to learn from many of them. When I was a kid, I liked watching Thomas Muster and Goran Ivanisevic, who were also left-handers. Also, there was Gaston Gaudio and of course now Roger Federer.

Read About Zeballos In DEUCE!

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