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Zeballos Stuns Nadal In Vina Del Mar Final; Wins First ATP World Tour Title

Vina del Mar, Chile

Zeballos, Nadal© César Pincheira/VTR OpenHoracio Zeballos won his first ATP World Tour title by edging Rafael Nadal.

World No. 73 Horacio Zeballos denied top seed Rafael Nadal a triumphant end to his first comeback event, topping the 11-time Grand Slam champion 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-4 to capture his first ATP World Tour trophy.

Zeballos notched his first Top 10 win in three attempts and in the process became the first left-handed player to defeat Nadal on red clay. He is the second first-time winner on the ATP World Tour this season, joining Australian Bernard Tomic, who triumphed on home soil at the Apia International Sydney.

“It's a dream for me,” said Zeballos. “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.”

The 27-year-old Zeballos did not advance beyond the second round at any of the tour-level events he entered in 2012, but knocked off four seeded opponents this week en route to the title. In addition to Nadal, Zeballos upset fourth seed Pablo Andujar, fifth seed Albert Ramos and eighth seed Carlos Berlocq.

“I've worked really hard because I really wanted to be at this level,” Zeballos said. “For some months, I've been playing at a high level and I think I'm at the best moment of my career. I'm very strong physically and psychologically.”

Video courtesy Vive Deportes and VTR.

Nadal reached the final on his season debut, returning to action following a seven-month absence to nurse a left knee injury. He lost just his fifth clay-court final in 41 title matches and was seeking his 51st crown overall.

“It was a great tournament for me,” assessed Nadal. “If we take everything, it was positive. It's true I wanted to win the final but in wasn't possible. He made things better than me and I didn't play my best match.

“I just need to keep working, practising with hope, motivation and the right attitude to have better sensations every week. I hope it's the beginning of a lot of good things for me.”

In an exciting encounter, Nadal found himself in a battle from the start, facing two break points in his opening service game. He saved both and went on to take the first set in a tie-break. Zeballos remained composed and in the second set ‘breaker, he opened a 6-4 lead. Although Nadal fought back to get to 6-6, Zeballos won the next two points to level the match. 

The Mallorcan broke Zeballos to love to begin the third set, but quickly relinquished his advantage, allowing Zeballos to get back on serve. The Argentine made more of an impact on return as the set intensified, and at 5-4, he surged ahead to a 0/40 lead. Zeballos converted his first match point to pull off the stunning victory in two hours and 46 minutes.

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