BUENOS AIRES (AFP) - Rafael Nadal beat Juan Monaco on Sunday to win the Argentina Open, claiming his first title since Roland Garros last year and nabbing a slice of tennis history as well.
Nadal's 6-4, 6-1 victory gave him the 46th claycourt title of his career, tying him with Guillermo Vilas for the most titles on the sandy surface in the Open Era.
It was Nadal's 65th career crown on all surfaces, moving him into sole possession of fifth place on the Open Era all-time list led by the 109 titles of American Jimmy Connors.
Most importantly, it showed Nadal is headed in the right direction.
The Spaniard, who battled injury last year after winning his ninth French Open, fell in the quarter-finals at the Australian Open in January.
He had fallen to fourth in the world after a semi-final loss to Italian Fabio Fognini in Rio de Janeiro last week, the first time he hasn't figured in the top three since August 2013.
The 28-year-old left-hander needed one hour and 26 minutes on court to notch his sixth victory over Monaco in as many meetings.
But the players had to wait out a two-hour rain delay before the match, and another delay after both held serve for 1-1 in the opening set on the still slippery court.
After securing a tight first set with one break of serve, Nadal stormed through the second.
He broke Monaco twice en route to a 4-0 lead, then broke him again in the final game.