• Zeballos stuns Nadal to win Vina del Mar title

    2/11/13 12:07 AM | Ricky Dimon
    Zeballos stuns Nadal to win Vina del Mar title Horacio Zeballos turns the tables in Vina del Mar on Sunday, surprising Rafael Nadal in three sets to take home the title. It is the first such triumph of Zeballos' career.

    Attempting to punctuate his first event in more than seven months with a title, Rafael Nadal fell to Horacio Zeballos 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-4 in the final of the VTR Open on Sunday night. Zeballos was two points from defeat in the second set but stormed back to complete the stunning win after two hours and 46 minutes.

    The Argentine had won 19 of his last 20 matches and he played like it throughout much of set one. Zeballos held serve at love three times, dropped a mere three points in six service games, and never lost more on the one service point in any game.

    His lone flaw was tightening up on crucial points. The underdog squandered two break chances at 1-0 and a missed another deuce opportunity in the sixth game of the match. In the ensuing tiebreaker, Zeballos committed forehand errors on the first and fifth points to fall behind by two mini-breaks. He got one back for 2-5, but Nadal won two more return points–the last with a perfect backhand return to clinch the set.

    Nadal showed signs of pulling away in the second, but he could not manage to do it. Vina del Mar’s No. 1 seed seized a 15-40 advantage at 2-1 with a chance to gain complete control of the match only to net a forehand on the first break point and watch an ace fly past him on the second. From there both players held comfortably en route to another tiebreaker.

    Zeballos once again appeared to be in dire straights when he squandered a 6-4 lead in the ‘breaker with consecutive errors. When it mattered most at 6-6, however, the world No. 73 came up with a crushing backhand return then capitalized on his third set point with a forehand winner.

    A back-and-forth thriller saw Nadal right the ship for an immediate break in the decider. Out of nowhere, though, a match that had previously featured zero breaks produced two in a row as Zeballos leveled the proceedings at 1-1. Zeballos remained on fire the rest of the way. He missed a deuce opportunity at 4-3 but quickly regrouped and emphatically won the last eight points of the match.

    Zeballos held at love for 5-4 before delivering a spectacular effort on return with Nadal serving to stay in the championship. Three straight winners brought up match point, which Zeballos converted by forcing his opponent into a running forehand error.

    Nadal drops to 36-5 lifetime in ATP clay-court finals and he is an amazing 210-3 in clay-court matches after winning the first set. This is Zeballos' first career ATP title in his second final.

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shock and awe

RickyDimon , 2/11/13 5:53 AM

Shocking result!

abhirf , 2/11/13 6:41 AM

Dang, Ricky!!!!!!!!!!!!!

pennster , 2/11/13 7:57 AM

zurprise of ze year! zuper!

vamos rafa for the come back! keep on fighting! keep on believing! hope he shows up in sao paolo!

croc , 2/11/13 10:47 AM

was zeballos feat even better than janowicz in paris?
beating rafa in a tight clay final goes on top of a lot...

croc , 2/11/13 11:10 AM

Zeballos for Roland Garros anyone?
lol its no big deal, Rafa played very timidly and the argentine just went for it and it paid off. He was a deserving winner, playing some brave tennis at the end and I am pleased for him. But it means very little ofcourse in the grand scheme of things other than Rafa is going to need a bit of time to trust his shots and develop his court awareness to adequate levels.
Unsurprising given how long he was out.

Twinge , 2/11/13 12:40 PM

Didnt see this coming I thought Nadal would win very easily

tennis2011 , 2/11/13 8:30 PM



Conspirator , 2/11/13 9:34 PM


Thanks so much for posting Tiggy's take on Rafa's loss in the final to Zeballos. He really gets Rafa in a way that many who write about tennis, simply do not. I love how he broke down what happened and why. He really got it absolutely right.

Zeballos also confirmed what I said in a post about this match. I said that I thought Zeballo realized that Rafa was vulnerable and that this could be his chance to get a win against him. Tignor quoted Zeballos' comments saying just that.

I also like that Tignor said it might be better that Rafa didn't win. Now he knows what has to be done. Rafa saying that he wasn't getting enough strength from his legs to push through his shots, was revealing.

This was a good read and a reasonable analysis of what happened. For Rafa it's all about moving on to the next tournament.

Nativenewyorker , 2/12/13 7:18 AM

I was clear it was match fitness, stamina that did him in. The rust is there but more than the rust its the lack of match fitness that did him in. Esp his movement which is maybe just 60% of what it was earlier and ofcourse his forehead still needs 30% strength and backhand nearly 50% strength and accuracy more to compete at the very top

sanju , 2/12/13 8:15 AM

el toro de mallorca! you take it literally sanju :) :)

croc , 2/12/13 9:10 AM

Tignor also mentioned that Rafa was a step slower in his start to get to the drop shots. That was something that I noticed as I watched him. Uncle Toni did say in an interview for the tennis channel that movement is the key for Rafa now. Also, I liked how Tignor pointed out that you have to relearn how to win matches. There's a mental aspect to this that we haven't really talked about very much. When Rafa is in a tough spot in a match, he seems to find that mental strength to get the win. But he wasn't able to draw on that in the match with Zeballos.

Tignor also mentioned the ROS. It was obvious that Rafa has to work on that. But Rafa understood well what was holding him back in the match. Not having that power and strength in his legs to get the depth on his groundstrokes. He knows what he has to work on for sure.

Nativenewyorker , 2/12/13 9:50 AM

You dont have a picture of Horacio Zeballos?

tennis2011 , 2/12/13 3:44 PM

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