Nalbandian returns to form, wins 2010 Legg Mason Tennis Classic

When the 2008 season began, David Nalbandian was on an upward swing.  The former world No. 3 had finished his fifth consecutive year ranked in the top 10 on the merit of two ATP Masters Series titles, as well as wins over Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Then, over the next two seasons, the former Wimbledon finalist lost top billing in Argentina to Juan Martin Del Potro, fell out of the Top 50 for the first time since turning pro, underwent hip surgery and then suffered a hamstring injury.  Del Potro, in the meantime, saw his stock rise with back-to-back Legg Mason Tennis Classic victories and his first major title, the 2009 U.S. Open, with a dramatic five-set win over Federer in the championship match.

Nalbandian, therefore, had plenty to prove in his first-ever appearance in Washington, D.C.  With the tables now turned (Del Potro was unable to defend due to wrist surgery undergone earlier this year) and with the blessing of a wild card, the 28-year-old Nalbandian made a very convincing case for his U.S. Open chances with his first title of the year and first tournament appearance since April with a 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory over Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus.  (A day earlier in the semifinals, Nalbandian overwhelmed young Croat Marin Cilic, giving up just four games and breaking the 21-year-old five times.)

In the final, holding serve became a tall order, particularly in the second set.  Both Nalbandian and Baghdatis served under 50 percent for the match, playing through lengthy back-and-forth service breaks.  Despite committing six double faults in the second set alone, the Argentine was able to save nine out of 11 break points, and rely on strong groundstrokes from both wings.

After the match, Nalbandian was grateful to have had a chance to explore a new city but more importantly, credited his coaches with the victory and successful return to the tour.

“It has been a year and a half, fighting with the surgery and the recovery,” said Nalbandian, who returns to the Top 50 after his title in Washington.  “We are so happy and this victory made me feel very good again.”

Photos: 2010 Legg Mason Tennis Classic championship match
Nalbandian d. Baghdatis, 6-2, 7-6 (4)