Vina del Mar, Chile – Horacio Zeballos, the 73rd ranked player in the world, upset clay-court specialist Rafael Nadal in the final of the VTR Open on Sunday to capture his first career ATP title.
Nadal, the top-seeded 11-time Grand Slam champion and owner of 50 career ATP titles, was playing flawlessly in his return from a seven-month layoff. The Spanish star had been sidelined since last summer with a knee injury and did not lose a set leading up to Sunday's final.
But Zeballos, who did not advance past the second round at any of the tour- level events last year, took the second set in a tiebreaker and broke Nadal's final serve at love to come away victorious.
The final score of the two-hour, 46-minute battle read 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 on the red clay at Club Naval de Campo Las Silnas.
Zeballos took out the fourth, fifth and eighth seeds this week to reach his second career ATP final -- his only other coming in a loss to Serhiy Stakhovsky in St. Petersburg in 2009.
The Argentinian never faced a break point in the opening set, but missed on two break opportunities before succumbing in the tiebreaker.
There were also no breaks of serve in the second set, and Nadal saved two set points to pull even at 6-6 in the tiebreaker before the underdog closed it out.
Zeballos was broken at love in the first game of the third set, but broke right back at deuce in the ensuing game.
It stayed on serve from there until Zeballos, leading 5-4, won four straight points to hand Nadal just his fifth loss in 41 career clay-court finals.
This was the first all-left-handed final on the ATP Tour since April 2010 when Nadal defeated Fernando Verdasco in the ATP Masters 1000 Monte Carlo.
Zeballos collected $74,000 with the win.