Rafa’s Return Spoiled by Zeballos

While hometown favorites Marin Cilic won the Zagreb Indoors and Richard Gasquet won the Open Sud de France in Montpellier, most who cover the ATP World Tour found themselves in Chile over the weekend covering the much anticipated return of Rafael Nadal.

Vina del Mar hasn’t necessarily been the most popular February tour stop…until this year, when Rafa announced it would be the site of his return to competition. After rehabbing for seven months, you’d think many would argue that it was a productive and triumphant return for the hard hitting Mallorcan – making it to both the doubles and singles finals. However, losses in both seem to have the tennis community questioning how well he’ll fare while preparing to capture an 8th French Open crown. Rafa’s hesitant and modest reaction to his performance obviously fuels the skeptics…

AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo

In Nadal’s words: “Everything was very positive…It’s true I wanted to win the final, and it’s true I didn’t play my best match this afternoon. There are a lot of things that show I’m not perfect yet…I hope this is the beginning of a lot of tournaments and a lot of good results for me…It was a week when we didn’t know how the body would respond, the knee…at least we have seen we can compete up to a certain level. It’s true I have had good days and bad days that impact on my play.”

First in singles, Angentina’s Horacio Zeballos took Nadal the distance and won the match 6-7, 7-6, 6-4. In the doubles final, Rafael and Juan Monaco were beaten by Paolo Lorenzi and Potito Starace 6-2, 6-4.

After Zeballos singles win, he said it was the game of his life and an unforgettable dream. At the net, Rafa said to him: “Enjoy this title, this is your first so just enjoy it…” This was only Nadal’s fifth loss in a final on clay, ending his 15-match clay court win streak.

This week, Nadal’s comeback continues at the Brasil Open. He’ll then take a week off to prepare for Acapulco.

AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo

Other ATP World Tour stops week:

San Jose, where Milos Raonic is the defending champion. Americans Bob and Mike Bryan, John Isner, Sam Querrey, Ryan Harrison, Jesse Levine, Michael Russell and Jack Sock are in the draw.

Rotterdam, where Roger Federer is the defending champion. Tsonga, Del Potro, Gasquet, Simon and Seppi are some off the other featured players.

On the WTA Tour, after Fed Cup weekend, the ladies return to Qatar for the Qatar Total Open. With a 64-name field, those in Doha this week include Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova, Sloane Stephens, Sam Stosur…really, the only big name NOT In the draw is Na Li…