Nadal, ranked fifth in the world, needed just over an hour to dispatch top seed Ferrer and was delighted with his form. “For me, I played almost perfectly,” said Nadal following the match. “My knee responded well all week.”
Nadal also confirmed he would play in this week’s Indian Wells hard-court tournament, despite speculation he might skip the event to spare his knee.
“My heart tells me I should continue competing, that I need to move on to the next tournament,” he added.
Nadal had been sidelined for more than seven months due to a partially torn tendon in his knee.
He made his return early last month at the Chilean Open, losing in the final to Argentine Horacio Zeballos. A week later he claimed the Brazil Open title.
The former world No 1 charged out of the blocks and won the first eight games against three-time defending champion Ferrer, who saw his 19-match winning streak at the clay-court event come to an end. “Rafa was just better than me today,” said Ferrer. World No 4 Ferrer waited 44 minutes to win his first game of the final, the crowd erupting in applause as he put away a service winner to trail 2-1 in the second set.
With Ferrer serving down 3-1, an extended rally in which both players scrambled back and forth from the net ended with a top-spin lob winner by Nadal, bringing the crowd to its feet and the score to 30-30.
Second seed Nadal, the 2005 Mexican Open champion, won the next two points to go up two breaks in the set and virtually put the match away. He pocketed $291,800 (£194,000) in prize money for the win.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic defeated Tomas Berdych to win the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
The world No 1, who won this event in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and has yet to lose this year, saw off his third seeded opponent 7-5, 6-3 in one hour and 34 minutes.
The first set went with serve until the fifth game, which Berdych took with a tremendous cross-court volley.
However, the Czech found the net with a gaping court in front of him to give Djokovic the break back in the eighth game.
Djokovic had two break points in the 12th game and took the first of them to clinch the set in 51 minutes.
The first seven games of the second set went with serve but then Djokovic made the decisive breakthrough and held the following game to wrap up the victory.
The Serbian received the trophy and a cheque for £285,000 and said: “I had a good feeling and good vibe about the tournament.
“There are always three or four top ten players participating here. I enjoy competing for this trophy.”
Berdych told the post-match presentation: “I didn’t have enough today. Novak was too good today and deserved to win.
“I’ll try to work hard to improve. I’d like to come back here for many years and fight for victory.”