BUENOS AIRES: Rafael Nadal won his first title in nearly nine months, beating Juan Monaco 6-4, 6-1 to win the Argentina Open.
Nadal's triumph was his first since he won a ninth French Open title at Roland Garros last June.
His 46th career claycourt title is the second-most all-time behind the 49 of Argentina's Guillermo Vilas.
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 his Roland Garros triumph, exited early in Qatar and 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. With this win, he's projected to return to third in the world, again overtaking Britain's Andy Murray.
"I'm coming off a season that has not been easy -- injuries, accidents," said Nadal, who had to cope with wrist trouble and an appendectomy in 2014.
"The beginning of this year has been a bit tricky after some time out, but little by little we have found positive feelings."
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 on clay.
But the players had to wait out a two-hour rain delay before the match, and another 55-minute delay after both held serve for 1-1 in the opening set on the still slippery court.