A left knee injury had kept Rafael Nadal out from the court for more than half a year after Wimbledon 2012, making a comeback in Vina del Mar in February next year. Horacio Zeballos defeated him in the final but Rafa was on the comeback trail, winning titles in Sao Paulo, Acapulco and Indian Wells before Novak Djokovic halted him in Monte Carlo final, delivering the first loss for the Spaniard in the Principality since 2003.
Nadal was the dominant figure in Barcelona as well and reached the final at home in Madrid, his seventh title match in a row since making the return three months earlier! On May 12, Rafa defeated Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 12 minutes for the 55th ATP crown and third in Madrid, the first since 2010 after letting the throne to Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the previous years.
It was their ninth meeting (the seventh in a row at Masters 1000 series) and the ninth victory for Nadal who was yet to lose a set against the Swiss. Rafa produced one of his most exceptional serving performance in a career, dropping only seven points behind the initial shot and never facing a break point, mounting the pressure on the other side of the net.
Also, the Spaniard claimed 40% of the points on Stan's serve and scored three breaks from 11 chances (six in the opening game of the match), controlling the scoreboard all the time and earning the 23rd Masters 1000 crown at 26.
The Spaniard had more winners than unforced errors while Wawrinka made too many mistakes, unable to penetrate his rival and open the court with his groundstrokes. Also, the Swiss could barely force a mistake from the opponent, hitting around 20 and losing ground in both the shortest and mid-range exchanges to push Nadal over the top.
A forehand winner gave Rafa an instant break in the first game, converting his sixth break opportunity to make the best start of the match and holding at love in game two to cement the advantage. Stan hit a double fault in game three to lose serve again, followed by another comfortable hold from the Spaniard after a forehand down the line winner that sent him 4-0 up after 18 minutes.
The Swiss finally got his name on the scoreboard with a hold in game five, although nothing changed on the return as Rafa brought another service game home, increasing the lead to 5-1. Stan reduced the deficit with an ace but the Spaniard was not to be denied, hitting an ace in game eight to close the opener in just over 30 minutes, hoping for more of the same in set number two.
It kicked off in a much tighter way and Wawrinka reached deuce on the return in game four for the first and only time. Nadal held with an ace and had a huge chance to break Stan's serve in the next game, with three break points up for grabs.
The Swiss saved them all, winning five points in a row to stay in front before Rafa leveled the score at 3-3 with another unreturned serve that made the difference in this encounter. The pivotal moment occurred in game seven when Stan hit a double fault to give serve away, with Nadal confirming the break thanks to holding at love after an unreturned serve to forge a 5-3 advantage.
Stan claimed the next game on his serve and that was all we saw from him, with Nadal bringing the tenth game home at 15 to celebrate his fifth title since the comeback, boosting confidence before going all the way in Rome and Roland Garros as well.