Result: Rafael Nadal beats Del Potro in 3 sets to win his 22nd Masters title (A world record)
It was unthinkable, only 2 weeks ago. Why, he wasn’t even going to play the hardcourt season in order to preserve his knees for his favorite clay season.
But with Rafael Nadal, nothing is unthinkable. Nothing is beyond the player- a warrior with a heart of a tiger, given a tennis racquet to fit amongst us mortals. On Sunday night, Nadal scripted yet another unlikely chapter in his book of greatness. Not many expected him to come back so soon, forget winning a tournament. He managed to win a few ATP250 warmup tournaments on Clay, in Mexico and South America- doing the right thing by using his surface to get his confidence back. And then, he decided to play the American hardcourt Masters season.
Djokovic entered the tournament in California on a 21 match unbeaten streak dating back to October. Murray entered the tournament fresh from yet another tilt at an Australian Open, often favorite on such surfaces. Federer entered Indian Wells as defending Champion. Nadal entered Indian Wells to ‘test the waters’.
The waters have been tested, and Rafael Nadal is a 3-time Indian Wells Champion. He only beat his nemesis Federer out of the top 4 on his way to the title, but he also beat the on-fire Del Potro- who was responsible for chucking Djokovic and Murray out of the tournament. It would have surely been the first time a player had defeated Djokovic, Murray and Nadal to win a title if Del Potro had managed to hold onto his serve in the second set- after destroying Nadal in the first set.
But that was not to be. Nadal returned, not as the old marauding defensive wonderboy, but as an aggressive player that seemed more suited to the faster surfaces than clay. Those who watched him smash his way to this title may have noticed how Nadal has made a conscious decision to keep the points and rallies shorter, and his forehands flatter. This is a far cry from the boy who took baseline tennis to level of defensive play unmatched by even the Lendls and Conners- and one would have to say that Nadal’s weak knee has turned him into a better monster. He has changed his game for good, with Djokovic possessing an invincible style of defense-to-offense play, and Murray close on his heels with a bit more variety.
It will be very interesting to see this new Nadal 2.0 take on the likes of Murray and Djokovic soon- and it’d be unfair to call this comeback a blooming success until he faces either one of them. Nadal himself is aware of the fact that he may have gotten lucky with the draw at Indian Wells, and will have to face the two players sooner than later. Only then, will he know if he is ready to challenge the undisputed no. 1 ranking.
The world already knows he will.
Onto Miami, for another test of waters- before the European season of Rafael Nadal well and truly begins.