VINA DEL MAR, Chile (Reuters) - Argentine Horacio Zeballos sprung a major surprise by beating Rafa Nadal 6-7 (2) 7-6 (6) 6-4 to win the Chilean Open on Sunday and clinch the first title of his career.
World number 73 Zeballos held his nerve in the final set, breaking Nadal when he was serving to stay in the match to seal victory after almost three hours in the Pacific coast city of Vina del March
Nadal, whose plan to resume at the end of 2012 after a long layoff due to a knee injury was delayed due to illness, will continue playing on his favorite clay surface at two other Latin American events this month.
The French Open champion heads to the Brazil Open in Sao Paulo next week and the Mexico Open in Acapulco from February 25.
Zeballos was competitive from the outset, but failed to exploit two break-points in the first set to allow Nadal a tiebreak, which the Spaniard comfortably wrapped up 7-2.
Zeballos hit back to win the second set tiebreak 8-6 and showed great poise to level at 1-1 in the decider after being broken before proceeding to an inspiring victory.
Writing by Javier Leira in Santiago; Editing by Ian Ransom