It’s been a long wait but Rafael Nadal finally landed his first European clay court title of the season and extended an 11-year record as he won the ATP World Tour 500 tournament in Hamburg Sunday.
The top seed beat Italy’s Fabio Fognini 7-5 7-5 in a hard-fought final lasting over two and a half hours.
The 29-year-old Mallorcan was avenging defeats to eighth seed Fognini in both Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona this season, both times on his favorite clay surface.
After his failure to win the French Open for the 10th time, Nadal’s record of winning at least one European clay event since 2004 looked in jeopardy.
But Nadal was not to be denied as he wrapped up his third title of the season and 67th overall.
Fognini, who falls to 3-7 in career finals, broke Nadal early but it to prove the first of four breaks of service until the Spaniard held for 3-2.
He went on to take a marathon first set after 77 minutes with a forehand winner and took a 3-1 lead in the second set.
But Fognini battled back and had the chance to level when he served at 5-4, holding a set point.
Nadal saved it, broke back and was to capitalize on his first match point leading 6-5 on Fognini’s service to seal victory.
Injuries wrecked the latter part of the 2014 season for the former world number one, but he has been slowly working his way back to his best and Sunday’s triumph was his 47th clay court title and first in Hamburg since 2008.
In other ATP Tour final action Sunday, Austria’s Dominic Thiem beat top seed David Goffin 7-5 6-2 in the Swiss Open final on Sunday.
The 21-year-old third seed was claiming his third title of year, adding to his wins in Nice in May and last week in Umag.
He enjoyed a superb week at Gstaad, beating second seed Feliciano Lopez of Spain in the semifinals and was avenging a defeat last year to Goffin in the Kitzbuehel final.