Nadal kick-starts season with grass title

Rafael Nadal has earned his fourth career title on grass, defeating Serb Viktor Troicki 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 at the Stuttgart Open.

The Spanish top seed’s win follows his 2005 and 2007 victories at the tournament on clay.

Stuttgart has made the switch to grass as part of the new Wimbledon pre-season.

Nadal’s 66th career title overall is also his second for 2015.

He owns two grass titles at Wimbledon, the 2008 Queen’s Club trophy and now Stuttgart.

The 14-time grand slam champion, polished his record against eighth seed Troicki to 5-0 with Sunday’s win. He last faced the Serb in a Tokyo semi-final nearly five years ago.

Nadal took victory in what was his 95th career final for a 66-29 record.

His last grass final came at Wimbledon in 2011 when he lost to Novak Djokovic.

Troicki was playing his seventh career final – and first on grass – and now stands 2-5 in title matches.

Nadal’s victory boosted him to 33-10 this season as he prepares for what he hopes is a better second half of 2015.

He is now 17-2 in Stuttgart, where he last competed eight years ago.

“I’m not bothered by the expectations of others,” said the 29-year-old. “I’m only motivated by my own goals. There is no pressure on me.

“It’s fantastic to win here on grass after winning on clay. Victor is a tough opponent.

“But I’ve been gaining confidence over the past month and a half after a very poor first three and a half months of this season.

“I’ve been feeling my game better since after my first match in Monte Carlo (mid-April). It was mentally tiring for me to play tennis in the first part of the year. I was not feeling comfortable on court.

“I was not able to play the way that I wanted, I didn’t feel confidence. But that has been changing and my focus now is to prepare as best as I can for Wimbledon.”

Nadal spent 48 minutes in winning the opening set, which he took into a tiebreaker with a love game. The top seed grabbed the early 4-2 lead in the decider and fired a ninth ace to wrap up the opener.

In the second, the Spaniard broke for 3-1 and took victory on his third match point, ending with 11 aces in the 88-minute contest.

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