Rafael Nadal sent out a warning to his rivals as he secured a first tournament success since last year’s French Open with a record-equalling victory against Juan Monaco in the Argentina Open final.
The 28-year-old Spanish left-hander has endured a difficult time since winning in Paris last June having suffered from injury and illness, including surgery for appendicitis which sidelined him for a while.
Nadal has not enjoyed a great start to 2015 as he crashed out of the Australian Open at the quarter-finals stage, while things got worse last week when Fabio Fognini defeated him on his favoured clay-court surface in the semi-finals of the Rio Open.
It has left the former world number one down to fourth in the rankings, but he showed signs that his best form is returning with a comprehensive 6-4 6-1 victory against home favourite Monaco despite the final being interrupted by rain in Buenos Aires.
It moved Nadal level with the watching Argentine great Guillermo Vilas on a record 46 clay-court title wins, while it is his 65th career title on all surfaces and he is back up a place and into the top three in the world.
And it is a timely boost as he works his way towards defending his French Open title in the second grand slam tournament of the year.
“I’m coming off a season that has not been easy – injuries, accidents,” said Nadal.
“The beginning of this year has been a bit tricky after some time out, but little by little we have found positive feelings.
“I had the hope of winning here and I prepared very well for this so it’s objective achieved.”