Zeballos Zaps Nadal In Vina Del Mar Stunner, Wins First Career Title By Beating The King Of Clay
by Staff | February 10th, 2013, 11:44 pm

Little-known lefty Horacio Zeballos did the unthinkable Sunday stunning King of Clay Rafael Nadal 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-4 in the Vina Del Mar final. It was suppose to be Nadal’s crowning return to tennis after a seven month layoff, playing a lowly ATP 250 event, but Zeballos wasn’t playing along with the story, instead turning the tables to capture his first career ATP title. And beating Rafa to do it!

“It’s a dream for me,” the 27-year-old Zeballos said after the 2-hour, 46-minute shocker. “To be able to play a final against Nadal was already good enough for me. It’s a moment that will stay in my memory for the rest of my life.”

Despite having won just seven games in their only prior meeting at the 2010 French Open and never having beaten a Top 10 player, the world No. 73 Argentine didn’t succumb to Nadal’s aura. Zeballos hung in with Nadal from the ground early on, going toe-to-toe with the clay king with a ripping one-handed backhand and a steady forehand, backed-up by an very decent serve. After dropping the first in a tough breaker, Zeballos held on to win a tight second set tiebreak.

After two sets of no-break tennis, the two traded early breaks in the third. From there Zeballos was just the better player, eventually breaking Nadal at love to win the match.

Zeballos joins Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic as the only players to ever beat Nadal in a clay final, and becomes just the second lefty after Fernando Verdasco to defeat him on his favorite dirt.

“I’ve worked really hard because I really wanted to be at this level. For some months, I’ve been playing at a high level and I think I’m at the best moment of my career,” Zeballos said. “I’m very strong physically and psychologically.”

Zeballos is also the first Argentine player to beat Nadal on clay since former French Open champion Gaston Gaudio beat an 18-year-old Rafa at Buenos Aires in 2005.

After a dissapointing loss in the singles, Nadal had the opportunisty to still come away with Sunday hardware. But he and friend Juan Monaco were turned away in the doubles final by Italians Lorenzi and Starache.

Playing his first event in seven months because of the knee, Rafa still took away the positives.

“It was a great tournament for me,” Nadal said. “If we take everything, it was positive. It’s true I wanted to win the final but in wasn’t possible. He made things better than me and I didn’t play my best match. I just need to keep working, practicing with hope, motivation and the right attitude to have better sensations every week. I hope it’s the beginning of a lot of good things for me.”

Nadal’s comeback tour now moves to Brazil where he’ll have a bye before his first match in Sao Paulo.

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23 Comments for Zeballos Zaps Nadal In Vina Del Mar Stunner, Wins First Career Title By Beating The King Of Clay

Humble Rafa Says:

Congratulations to Donuttos. He played better than me. He deserves to be a champion, no?

Michael Says:

Honestly, I didn’t expect this result. It should be a shocker for Rafa. Being beaten on Clay by a little known Zeballos is surely not a good sign. Ofcourse I anticipated trouble for Rafa, coming as he does after a long lay off with the top ten. But, this loss of Rafa is against an unseeded player, a journey man and that too on his most favourite surface – The clay, where he is the undisputed King. I hope this terrible loss doesn’t shatter Rafa’s motivation and confidence and he carries on with his arduous job of regaining his form. I am sure Rafa can do it still if he thinks he can.

Giles Says:

Michael. He hasn’t played a competitive match in 222 days. The loss is meaningless. Expecting a guy to win his first tourney after all that time is insane. Hope? Sure. Expect? No. The surface at this point is irrelevant.

Rogerisclass Says:

Congratulations Zeballos. and sorry for him.

like a Nadal and Nadal’s fan always say. Nadal’s injury etc. are reasons when Nadal loses.


Nadal: “Rosol not comparable to Soderling”

In an interview with Diario de Mallorca, Rafael Nadal says he first hurt his knee this season at Indian Wells in March, then it got worse when he was forced to retire against Andy Murray in Miami. He then competed with discomfort all the way until he stopped playing after Wimbledon.

Nadal said he took a risk in the semifinals of Roland Garros, where he posted a quick win despite playing with inflammation in his knee, but that he was solely focused on winning his seventh title there.

“It was very bad, and I was playing with the knee asleep,” he said. “You always think you can do it, but it was not possible even though I did my best.”

Nadal added that his defeat to Rosol could not be compared to when Robin Soderling upset him at the 2009 French Open.

“There is no point of comparison,” he said. “Both have in common that my knee was bad,

but I could compete at Roland Garros. In Wimbledon, no. The defeat to Rosol as was a death foretold for me.”


Giles Says:

Rafa has played 8 matches in 6 days (singles and doubles).he came to Chile to get some competitive match practice. Well done Rafa!

nadalista Says:

It is a measure of Rafa’s standing that some people actually expected him to come in after a 7-month lay-off and win every tournament he plays from the get go.


Giles Says:

^^^ yeah, now that is what you call respect!

nadalista Says:

Rafa on facebook:

“Congratulations to Horacio for his great win. It’s been a very special week for me. Thank you all for your unconditional support.”

Your TRUE fans support you unconditionally, Champ.

Vamos!! Relax, play with “colm” and the benefits of your patience and hard work will become apparent soon enough.

Michael Says:

Giles, Still I’d expect him to win considering the tourney didn’t host top players except Rafa. I recall about Rafa’s come back in 2010 where he came back after a long lay off and yet was able to beat players other than top ten with ease. That sting is missing today. Ofcourse this is not the end of the world and he has more tournaments to play. Yet the beginning has not been good and this should worry him a bit considering that he lost to a player named Zeballos whom Rafa would beat even when he plays with a racquet without strings

Esrelle Says:

I’m sure even Rafa and Toni were hoping for a win here seeing as there were No top ranked players. Confidence wise it was probably unfortunate but I think he was too ambitious trying for singles and doubles.

Better luck in Alcapulco!

Giles Says:

Michael. Rafa’s “long layoff” in 2009 was all of two months. This one lasted 7 months. Quite a difference, don’t you think?

Giles Says:

Ederle. As I said in one of my previous posts “Hope? sure. Expect? No. ” Too much to ask after a lay off of 222 days. Anyway, he has had a few competitive matches and that is what he needs over the next few months to get back to full fitness. He never had any expectations whatsoever so he will not be disappointed. On the contrary he is happy with what he achieved this week. Two finals after 222 days away from the tour, that is quite a feat in itself! #VamosKing

Giles Says:

Esrelle. Sorry I misspelt your name.

max Says:

Usually people root for the underdog. All the Chileans were rooting for Rafa though mainly because across the net was an Argentine.
There was this incident involving Chilean marines singing nasty things against Argentinians, Bolivians and Peruvians.
So, for Zeballos it was a great thing to beat Nadal and to silence all those Chileans. Bravo!!!

The Great Davy Says:

At these rates, Nadal will retire before me!

Michael Says:

Giles, You definitely have a point there that this time the lay off is too long. Ofcourse you need time to recover. Who knows this defeat might rejunevate Nadal to give his best.

trufan Says:

This puts some pressure on him for the Brasil open – if he loses there too, then there will be serious questions. Right now, its too early, this is just one loss after a 7 month layoff, so no big deal.

Growing old sucks, for everyone!

alison Says:

I think theres another thing one has to bear in mind.no disrespect to Zeballos as it was a fantastic win for him dont get me wrong,but this was a very close match in a best of 3 sets,to do that over 5 sets in a GS is a completely different animal,Rafa had a break in that 3rd set only to lose concentration the following game and throw the break back,it would be that much more difficult for Zeballos to sustain that level against Rafa over 5 sets,just a thought anyway.

patzin Says:

I think playing doubles & singles on 1st tournament after 7 months was a bit risky. But he thought it would aid his performance and be beneficial. I think the result was good, 1st week back. Let’s give the guy a break. True fans, like myself, appreciate his effort and hold steady in our regard for him. Just happy to see him back on court; the future will be whatever it will be. Let’s see; one step at a time. Live in the present moment & not compare to the past. Every day is a new beginning. The most impressive aspect of Rafa for me, his resolve and determination. He is loved for these qualities.

nadalista Says:

@jane, thought you might like this SI.tennis write up on Christian Garin:

“Christian Garin: A. You’re forgiven if you’re sheepishly pretending you know who I’m talking about here. Garin is a 16-year-old Chilean who won his debut tour-level match last week, beating Dusan Lojovic in Chile. He joins Nadal, Ryan Harrison, Bernard Tomic and Gasquet as the only men to have won a tour-level match at age 16 since 2000. He didn’t stop there. Garin followed up his win by taking a set from Australian Open quarterfinalist Jeremy Chardy.”


jane Says:

^ thanks for the note nadalista; I will keep my eye out for him in future.

Testy Nadal Withdraws From Sao Paulo Doubles To Rest Knees, Nalbandian Returns With A Win; Federer Cruises In Rotterdam Says:

[…] been a good 3-4 days for Rafael Nadal. After a promising start a week ago in Chile, Nadal lost in the singles and doubles finals on Sunday, then proceeded to torch several ATP policies and last night the former No. 1 took shots […]

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