STUTTGART, Germany — Rafael Nadal has not always been comfortable on a grass court, and the tennis star was squirming a little on Sunday — despite having won his first title on the surface since 2010.
It was not so much his performance in the Stuttgart final, where he beat Victor Troicki in straight sets to bounce back from his French Open disappointment, but more the prize presentation.
Most people would be delighted with a V8 Mercedes sports car, but perhaps not someone who is a well-paid ambassador for a rival automotive manufacturer.
“It’s not a Kia, but it’s still good,” Nadal said diplomatically after a brief inspection inside the garish yellow vehicle, winning huge laughs from the crowd.
“Will you drive it at home?” came the inevitable question.
Short silence. “Without the cameras around, perhaps yes,” conceded the Spaniard, who has been sponsored by Kia for almost a decade.
Then came the qualifier.
“I don’t know if I can change the color, because the color is a little bit too much for me,” demurred the man well known for his politeness.
It was a lighthearted end to an “emotional” week for Nadal, whose long French Open reign was ended by Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros.
While most of the top men’s players took a break after Paris, the 29-year-old went straight back into the fray at a German tournament he won in 2005 and 2007 — this season it switched from clay to a grass surface and moved to after the French grand slam.
“It’s been a tough couple of years playing on grass, with problems in my knees,” said Nadal, who last year lost his opening match at another German grass-court event in Halle and was beaten by young Australian Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round at Wimbledon.
“Today I’m ready to play again on grass, my knees are well and so is my tennis, so I’m very happy.”
While Roger Federer will defend his Halle title this coming week, Nadal will head to Britain for the Queen’s Club Championships in London, lining up with new French Open champion Stan Wawrinka and home hope Andy Murray.
Nadal, the top seed in Stuttgart, triumphed 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 against Troicki in just under an hour and a half, winning the $118,000 first prize.
It was his 66th ATP Tour title, but just his second in a year where the former world No. 1 has dropped to 10th in the rankings. He won Wimbledon for the first time in 2010, and lost for the third time in a final there the following year, but has not passed round four since.
Troicki, ranked 28th, was also seeking his second title this year but had to make do with $62,000.
Meanwhile, veteran Frenchman Nicolas Mahut won his third career title Sunday, beating second seed David Goffin 7-6 (7-1) 6-1 in the final of the grass event in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
The 33-year-old also won the co-sanctioned Dutch tournament in 2013.
Italy’s Camila Giorgi won her first WTA Tour title, beating young Swiss Belinda Bencic 7-5 6-3 in the women’s final.AlertMe