Zeballos Stuns Nadal in VTR Open Final

by John on February 10, 2013


News flash: Horacio the Giant Killer knocks off Rafa the Clay Master in sparkling duel. Argentine Horacio Zeballos, ranked No. 73 in the world, shocked Rafael Nadal 6-7 (2), 7-6 (6), 6-4 in the final of the VTR Open in the Chilean coastal town of Vina del Mar Sunday evening. Nadal, a prohibitive favorite, was going for his 37th singles title on clay, but Zeballos looked every bit the equal of the seven-time French Open champion. It was only the fifth singles final that Nadal, returning to the tour after being sidelined for seven months with a left knee injury, has lost on clay. “This is the game of my life,” Zeballos said. “Playing against the best player of all-time, or one of the best in the history of tennis. It’s a dream, unforgettable. I will never forget this moment.” In winning his first tour title on any surface, Zeballos matched Nadal shot for shot with no service breaks until the third set. Nadal broke at love to start the deciding stanza, but quickly dropped service, allowing Zeballos to get back on serve. The Argentine ramped up his return game as the set progressed, and at 5-4 jumped out to a love-40 lead. Zeballos converted his first match point to seal the stunning upset in two hours and 46 minutes. The 27-year-old Argentine bagged his first Top 10 win in three tries and became the first left-hander to defeat Nadal on red clay. “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.” Nadal had not lost a set all week until today. But he has acknowledged his comeback might be a slow one, needing time to regain his speed and match fitness. The knee continues to bother him, and he has said it might be several months before it’s clear if the non-surgical treatment has been effective. “It has been one of the most beautiful weeks lately for me after being unable to experience something like this for long time,” Nadal said. “The fact I am here has been a triumph.”

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