After the second-round loss to Lukas Rosol in five sets at Wimbledon 2012, world no. 2 Rafael Nadal was forced to skip the action for the next seven months, struggling with a left knee injury that proved to be one of the most dangerous ones of his career.
Unable to make a comeback at the beginning of the upcoming season, Rafa hit the court again in Vina del Mar in February 2013, opting to embrace the South American Golden Swing and hoping to regain form and momentum as soon as possible on his beloved clay.
Scoring three commanding wins, Rafa was in another final on his favorite surface but couldn't win the title, suffering a massive 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 loss to Horacio Zeballos in two hours and 47 minutes. A week later, the Spaniard entered an indoor clay event in Sao Paulo, heading all the way to celebrate the first ATP title in eight months and only the second under the roof after Madrid 2005!
It was the beginning of Nadal's incredible streak in 2014, conquering ten titles overall and finishing as the year-end no. 1 player for the first time in three years. Still not at 100% and with a roof above his head, Rafa didn't produce his best tennis but, unlike a week ago when he was two points away from the title, there was no one to stop him this time around, scoring four wins for the first ATP 250 crown on clay since Bastad 2005!
Following a solid victory over Joao Sousa, Rafa needed two and a half hours to prevail against Carlos Berlocq 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, reaching the semis where world no. 111 Martin Alund took a set away from him before Rafa shifted into a higher gear in the decider for a 6-3, 6-7, 6-1 win and the place in the final.
There, things looked much better for the Roland Garros champion, ousting David Nalbandian 6-2, 6-3 in an hour and 18 minutes for the 51st ATP title on his tally that gave him a massive boost for the rest of the year. Controlling his shots nicely, Nadal had more winners than unforced errors, overpowering the Argentine in the shortest and mid-range exchanges to control the pace and seal the deal in style.
Nalbandian had his chances, taking 41% of the return points and breaking Rafa twice from four opportunities, unable to materialize on that after landing only 50% of the first serve in, giving away more than a half points in his games and allowing Nadal to grab five breaks and cross the finish line first.
Both players used indoor conditions to kick off the action with five commanding holds before David netted an easy volley in the sixth game to fall 4-2 down, creating a break chance in the next game that Rafa fended off with a powerful forehand, holding with an ace to cement the break and move closer to the opener.
From 40-0 down in the next game, Nadal took five straight points for another break and a 6-2 when Nalbandian sprayed a backhand error. With no room for mistakes, the Argentine broke in the first game of the second set, holding with a service winner in the next game to confirm the lead and extending it with another break that sent him 3-0 up following a forehand error from Nadal.
The Spaniard pulled one break back to reduce the deficit to 3-1, holding with an ace in game five and leveling the score at 3-3 thanks to a backhand mistake from David. With the momentum on his side, Rafa rattled off the fourth straight game to move in front, earning a break at 15 to open a 5-3 gap and sealing the deal in game nine to secure the sixth consecutive game and a much-needed title after such a long break.