The last time Rafa played in Stuttgart was 2007 when he won the tournament. But that was on clay. This year he returned to play his first grass tournament since last year's Wimbledon.
To find his grass feet, he entered the doubles with Feliciano Lopez. They won their first match, against Rameez Junaid and Adil Shamasdin, 7-6(5) 6-2, and got a walkover for their second match thus reaching the semi finals. After Rafa's long quarter final in the singles, however, they withdrew from the doubles so it was a very brief competition for them.
His first opponent in the singles was Marcos Baghdatis who had been playing on grass last week in a challenger tournament. Rafa fought back from an early break to take the first set on a tiebreak but fortunes were reversed in the second. Rafa ran away with the decider to win, 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-2, in two hours and forty minutes.
It was a similar story in his quarter final against Bernard Tomic. It was another long match, taking two hours and twenty minutes. Rafa won the first set, lost the second in a tiebreak and won the third to take the match, 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3, serving 14 aces along the way.
His semi final was against Gael Monfils who is not at his most comfortable on grass. Compared to the first two, it was an easy match for Rafa. He won 6-3, 6-4 in just under an hour and twenty minutes.
In the final he played Viktor Troicki who has never beaten him. This is no guarantee, however, so I could only hope Rafa wasn't as nervous as I was. Luckily, he wasn't and won in straight sets, 7-6(3), 6-3 in just under an hour and a half.
Amazingly, it's his first tournament win on grass in five years. It has to have given him confidence for the season ahead.