Rafael Nadal stormed to his biggest title since the French Open today dismissing Juan Martin Del Potro 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to win a third Indian Wells title. The Spaniard who many thought wouldn’t even attend event to avoid further damage his frail knees, was playing in his first hardcourt event in some 50 weeks, yet hardly showed any real rust en route to winning on his worst surface.
“A lot of things happened the last seven months, to be back here and to have this very heavy trophy with me is amazing,” said Nadal who’s now won 13 straight over Top 10 players. “Beating three Top 10 players and winning a title like this is just something unbelievable for me. I’m very, very happy and very emotional.”
Nadal blizted Ryan Harrison in his opener a week ago. Then evaded a hot-handed Ernests Gulbis Wednesday night before easily dispatching a wounded Roger Federer 24 hours later.
This weekend, Nadal displayed his toughness ousting an in-form Tomas Berdych yesterday and then today, down a set and a break to Del Potro, Rafa fought through the big-slugging Argentine to claim his 22nd career Masters title, 53rd of his career and his first on the hardcourt since Tokyo in October of 2010. The win also marked the 600th of his career.
If Rafa wanted to send the message that he was back, well, he just did. (Novak Djokovic, you are on alert for the clay season!)
“When you have one comeback like I’m having, you remember all the low things, lower moments that you had during the seven months,” Nadal said. “Hopefully I passed and can just remember all the people that really helped me a lot during all this time.”
Del Potro, who played well all week, came up just short of pulling off an incredible triple – beating three of the big four in consecutive days. Del Potro, who had beaten Nadal on three previous occasions, began slow, almost in a sleepwalk haze falling behind 0-3, but then rattled off nine of the next 11 games to lead with a break 3-1 in the second. But, somehow, Nadal found his footing and broke the Argentine twice to take the second and grab momentum for good.
“I think Rafa deserved to win,” said Del Potro who was seeking his first career Masters title. “The last hour of the match, he played so solid and put me so far [from] the baseline and made winners. But I think I [had] a good tournament anyway, and Rafa played really well today in the second and third sets. He broke me early in the third. Playing against him when the score is down is tougher. I was fighting all the time but he won in the end.”
After the match Nadal officially announced that he will skip the Miami masters, joining friend Roger Federer among those not playing in the prestigious South Florida event, a title Nadal has never won.
The win will move Nadal back into the Top 4 but with so many points to defend during the clay season it’s unlikely he will push any higher before the French Open.
Nadal is 17-1 on the season and his three titles are best among all players.
Rafa’s last match of 2012 came at Wimbledon where he was stunned by Lukas Rosol in the second round. With his left knee healing, Nadal hoped to play at the start of the season at the Australian Open but those hopes were dashed by an odd stomach ailment. As doubts of his return grew, Nadal sped up him comeback playing Vina Del Mar but then suffered a shocking loss to Horacia Zeballos.
Since then, though, the former No. 1 has won 14 straight matches and is arguably the hottest player in tennis right now. The Man from Mallorca is back.
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