Rafael Nadal lifted his first trophy since last year’s French Open and closed in on a long-standing ATP Tour record Sunday by claiming the Argentina Open crown.
Argentina legend Guillermo Vilas leads the way with 49 wins in clay-court tournaments, but today’s “King of Clay” drew nearer to the leading mark by winning his 46th title in Buenos Aires.
He also claimed his 65th title from 93 tour-level finals, breaking out of a tie with legends Pete Sampras and Bjorn Borg for fifth place in the all-time list.
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Nadal has been hampered by injury and illness since his Roland Garros triumph last June and lost out to Fabio Fognini in the semifinals of the Rio Open last week.
It was a dispiriting defeat — his first in a clay-court semifinal for 12 years — but, moving from Brazil to Argentina, the Spaniard was largely untroubled in reaching the final and duly swept aside home player Juan Monaco 6-4 6-1 in the Estadio Billoch Caride.
Nadal was playing in the first event for the first time in 10 years and his victory is a morale-booster after going out early in Qatar and exiting the Australian Open ahead of his clay-court swing in South America.
The 28-year-old from Mallorca took his career record against Monaco, who was playing his 20th career final, to 6-1 and was never seriously troubled in the title match.
The only thing to delay him was multiple rain delays which had the players scurrying on and off the court.
A single break of service gave him the opener but he pulled clear immediately in the second and three further breaks saw him wrap up victory in just short of an hour and a half of action.
Nadal is the seventh successive Spanish winner of the ATP 250 event, and it is a boost for his preparations for his challenge for a remarkable 10th French Open title in May.