Rafael Nadal sounds a Wimbledon warning with grass victory over Victor Troicki in Stuttgart

Most top players chose to rest in the first week of the new three-week gap between the French Open and Wimbledon

Rafa Nadal with the cup and car he won for clinching the Stuttgart grass-court tournament
Rafa Nadal with the cup and car he won for clinching the Stuttgart grass-court tournament

The clay-court season is usually the time when Rafael Nadal makes ground on all his rivals, but could this be the year when he turns his season around on grass? The 29-year-old Spaniard had won only one minor tournament in the previous 12 months until he claimed his first grass-court title for five years by beating Serbia’s Victor Troicki 7-6, 6-3 in the final in Stuttgart.

Nadal, whose only previous success in the last year was in a clay-court event in Buenos Aires, had not won a title on grass since his second Wimbledon triumph in 2010. He has suffered some shocking losses at the All England Club in recent times, losing to Lukas Rosol in the second round in 2012, to Steve Darcis in the first round in 2013 and to Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round last year.

While most of the top players rested in the first week of the new three-week gap between the French Open and Wimbledon, Nadal opted to play in the inaugural grass-court event in Stuttgart. The world No 10 has always been a player who needs matches more than practice and boosted his confidence by winning the Stuttgart title.

The final was tight throughout. Both players had only one break point. Troicki failed to convert his, while Nadal’s break in the second set put him on the road to victory. The Spaniard, who served well throughout, had won the opening set tie-break 7-3.

Rafa Nadal’s first opponent at Queen’s Club is Alexandr Dolgopolov

“It’s a very special title,” Nadal said afterwards. “To win a title here is very good news for my game and for my mentality too. At this point of the season, every victory is important and every title means a lot to me.”

Nadal, who earlier this month failed in his attempt to win the French Open for the 10th time, will play in the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club this week, returning to the tournament after a four-year absence. His first opponent on Tuesday will be Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine.

France’s Nicolas Mahut won the title in s-Hertogenbosch for the second time when he beat Belgium’s David Goffin 7-6, 6-1 in the final. There was little to choose between the two men in the first set, but Mahut, the world No 97, quickly took control of the tie-break, which he won 7-1. The 33-year-old Frenchman made an early break of serve in the second set and completed victory in an hour and 17 minutes.

Italy’s Camila Giorgi won the women’s tournament by beating Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic 7-5, 6-3 in the final. It was Giorgi’s first WTA title.

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