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“I couldn’t be happier”- Nadal claims first title of the season in Acapulco

leye aduloju /

World No. 2, Rafael Nadal claimed his first title of the season with a dominant 6-3 6-2 victory over American, Taylor Fritz in Acapulco on Saturday.

Nadal became Acapulco champion for the third time, adding to his previous triumphs in 2005 and 2013. This is his first Acapulco title since the tournament switched from clay courts to hard courts in 2014.

Nadal went through the tournament without dropping a set, beating Pablo Andujar, Miomir Kecmanovic, Soonwoo Kwon, Grigor Dimitrov and Fritz in a dominant week.

“I couldn’t be happier. I played a great event from the beginning to the end,” said Nadal, who improved to 20-2 in Acapulco.

“Acapulco was the first big title that I won in my career, so to be able to stay here after 15 years is amazing. I can’t thank enough the people who make me feel at home every single time.”

For Fritz, he slips to 1-4 in tour-level finals, but will be rewarded for a fine week with a new career-high ranking of 24th on Monday.

“He’s one of the best players to ever play the game and he showed me why that is tonight,” Fritz said. “This is one of my favourite tournaments to come to every year. I’m just glad that I could have a good week at one of my favourite events. I felt a lot of love all week”.

“You always wish you could win, but I still have to take positives out of this week. It was an honour to step on the court with Rafa. I’ve played Roger and Novak, the other two people I watched when I was a kid. To play with Rafa, who I’ve watched since I was a kid, it’s pretty crazy when you step back to think about it.”

Nadal was never in any serious trouble against Fritz in Saturday’s final, with the Spaniard facing just one break point, midway through the second set, and saving it with a trademark forehand winner, in the 75-minute encounter. The world No. 2 dropped just eight points on serve, winning 83% of points behind his first serve and 76% on his second.

Fritz, by contrast, had to work a lot harder to hold serve in his first meeting with the great Spaniard. The American sent down 10 aces, but he was constantly under pressure on his second serve, winning just six of the 17 points contested on that delivery.

The American fended off two break points to hold for 2-2, but he finally cracked while serving at 3-4, sending a forehand into the net to hand Nadal the first break of the match. The top seed made no mistakes in the next game, closing out the opener to love. Fritz stayed with Nadal through the first four games of the second set, but Nadal pulled away from 2-2, winning four games in a row to secure his 85th career title.

Nadal had been below par during the season-opening ATP Cup, suffering singles defeats to David Goffin and Novak Djokovic in Spain’s run to the final, while he crashed to a quarter final loss to Dominic Thiem at the Australian Open, but the 33-year-old was at his dominant best in Acapulco. The 33-year-old became the third three-time champion at the tournament, after Thomas Muster and David Ferrer, and improves to 12-3 for the season.

“After not competing since Australia, it’s an important week for me and an important moment,” Nadal said. “I played solid, with the right intensity and the right passion, and my forehand worked well”.

“This title doesn’t mean that I will have a great season. It means another good start of the season for me. It gives me confidence, allows me to be in a privileged position in the ATP Race [To London]. At the end of the day, I’m still competing for these feelings that I am having right now. Regardless of the result, I am always happy after playing here. Now imagine how I am after getting the title!”

The great Spaniard is expected to return to action at Indian Wells, live from 9-16 March.