Washington :Argentina's injury-plagued David Nalbandian won his first ATP title since January of last year by defeating eighth seed Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) in Sunday's Washington Classic final.
The former world number three took the 281,500-dollar top prize from the 1.4 million-dollar hardcourt event, a tuneup for the US Open that starts in three weeks, after winning the first US final either player had ever contested.
Nalbandian was sidelined nine months after hip surgery, made a brief return early this year, then missed two months with a sore hamstring before coming back in July to help Argentina reach the Davis Cup semi-finals.
He captured his 11th career crown in his first final since winning the title at Sydney 19 months ago.
The 28-year-old South American has missed the past six Grand Slams and had not played an ATP event since April.
At 117th in the world, Nalbandian is the lowest-ranked player to win an ATP title this year, a feat that will lift him back into the top 45.
Nalbandian broke at love to open the match and again in the penultimate game of the set, Baghdatis taking only 4-of-13 points off his second serves.
Back-to-back double faults by Nalbandian gave Baghdatis a break and a 2-0 lead to start the second set, but the big-hitting Argentine answered by breaking Baghdatis on his third opportunity of the next game.
Nalbandian saved four break points before holding in the fourth game and took a 3-2 lead with a break in the next game when his video replay appeal ruled a Baghdatis backhand wide.
The Cypriot answered with a forehand winner to break back and then held but was denied on two break points by Nalbandian, who held to 4-4.
Nalbandian faced a break and set point on his serve in the 12th game but saved it when Baghdatis netted a backhand and held to force a tie-breaker, then rolled to a 5-0 lead on his way to winning after two hours.
Baghdatis, 25, failed in a bid for his fifth career ATP title, the most recent of them last January at Sydney. The 25th-ranked Cypriot will move to 21st after a 2009 rankings slide from the top 150 with wrist and back injuries.
Nalbandian lost three of four prior matches with Baghdatis, including a 2006 Australian Open semi-final and their most recent meeting in the third round at Wimbledon in 2007.
Nalbandian continued a run of Argentine champions in the US capital after reigning US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro's titles in 2008 and 2009. Del Potro was unable to seek a third consecutive crown due to injury.