By Steve Ginsburg
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian made the most of his first tournament since April by turning aside eighth seed Marcos Baghdatis 6-2 7-6 to win the $1.2 million Washington Classic on Sunday.
"I felt I played good all week," said Nalbandian, a wild card entry who missed much of 2009 following hip surgery and several months this year with a hamstring injury.
"I'd been practicing well but I didn't expect to win my first tournament back."
While Baghdatis landed only 41 percent of his first serves, including 39 in the second set, it was his failure to win the big points that cost him the match as the 25th-ranked Cypriot converted only two of his 11 break-point opportunities.
"I knew that I would have chances on his serve," Baghdatis said after reaching his first final in the United States. "I had my chances to win the second set but I didn't take them."
Nalbandian broke Baghdatis in the first game of the match at love and dominated the opening set on a sultry day in Washington. Cheered on by a boisterous flag-waving Argentine contingent in the crowd, he also broke Baghdatis in the seventh game before closing out the set in 32 minutes.
"I felt in the second set I had to mix it up a bit and maybe go for a bit more," the 25-year-old Baghdatis said. "I did it pretty good. If I was serving a bit better today, if I could have won more easy points, I could have won."
Nalbandian, a 2002 Wimbledon finalist ranked 117 entering the tournament, will move up to around 45 when the new rankings come out later this week.
"It's been about a year and a half fighting with the surgery, with the recovery," said the 28-year-old Argentine, who was ranked number three in 2006. "We are so happy and this victory made me feel very good again."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)