The World No 5, back on a court after his defeat in the Vina del Mar Open in Chile Sunday, and his partner won 6-3, 3-6, 11-9 in just 79 minutes over fellow Spaniards Pablo Andujar and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the first round of the ATP clay court event.
The third set was hard fought with Nadal and Nalbandian saving two match points before prevailing 11-9. The Spanish star was mobbed by adoring fans as he left the court.
The match started two hours behind schedule and Nadal, wearing a white knee brace, was greeted with thunderous applause when he appeared on the court in the 9,300-seat Ibirapuera gymnasium.
The winning duo was to play in the second round Wednesday.
As the top seed, Nadal, an 11-time Grand Slam champion enjoyed a first-round singles bye and will open his singles campaign Thursday.
He lost the singles and doubles finals Sunday at his comeback event in Vina del Mar, Chile following a seven-month knee injury absence.