SAO PAULO - Rafa Nadal's comeback from a seven-month injury layoff gathered pace as he brushed aside Argentine David Nalbandian 6-2 6-3 to win the Brazil Open on Sunday, his first title since the 2012 French Open.
The Spanish world number five, playing only his second tournament following his return from injury, broke twice in the first set and recovered from 3-0 down in the second to win in 78 minutes.
The 11-times grand slam champion, who said he still suffers pain in his troublesome knees, has chosen to return to action on the clay courts he favours as he tries to work his way back to match fitness.
"When the knee hurts I can't move properly. And if I can't move properly, I can't hit the ball cleanly. When my knee gets better, the tennis will get better, the head (will get better), everything will get better," Nadal told reporters.
"Today was the day I felt best on court."
Nadal made his comeback in Chile last week but lost the final to another Argentine, Horacio Zeballos.
But there was to be no repeat of that setback this week as the 26-year-old Spaniard overran the hapless Nalbandian.
Although he was clearly a long way from his best, Nadal showed the same swashbuckle that took him to the top of the game. In a reference to his first title here in 2005, the year he burst on to the world scene, he said he hoped this win would mark a new beginning for him.
"Brazil will always be in my heart, this is the second time I have been here," he told fans after the game. "In 2005, big things started to happen for me after winning here and I hope this time again it is the start of something good."
The Spaniard is expected to play in the Mexico Open in Acapulco later this month as he prepares to defend his French Open title in May. (Editing by Pritha Sarkar)