ThrowbackTimes Indian Wells: Rafael Nadal battles past Tomas Berdych in the semis

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ThrowbackTimes Indian Wells: Rafael Nadal battles past Tomas Berdych in the semis

Struggling with a left knee injury, Rafael Nadal had to skip the second part of the 2012 season and the Australian Open at the beginning of 2013, returning in Vina del Mar on clay and building up the form to conquer Sao Paulo and Acapulco.

Ready to rumble on hard courts again, Rafa prevailed against Ernests Gulbis in the fourth round and toppled Roger Federer in the quarters in straight sets to set the clash against Tomas Berdych in the battle for the place in the final.

After beating Rafa three times in 2005 and 2006, Berdych lost the ground completely, losing 11 consecutive encounters against the Spaniard and not being able to change that in the desert as well, with Nadal prevailing 6-4, 7-5 in an hour and 44 minutes.

Competing in the eighth straight Indian Wells semi-final, Rafa saved three out of four break chances and stole 40% of the return points, delivering three breaks from seven opportunities to seal the deal in straight sets and set the title clash against Juan Martin del Potro.

They had a similar number of winners and it was the Czech who sprayed more unforced errors, overpowering Nadal in the more advanced exchanges but staying far behind in the quickest rallies up to four strokes to hand the victory to a former champion.

Settling into an excellent rhythm behind the initial shot, they needed 23 minutes to complete the opening six games before Nadal pulled the trigger in game seven, stealing Berdych's serve and holding with a forehand winner in the next game to open a 5-3 gap.

Controlling the pace with his groundstrokes, Rafa fired three winners in the tenth game to grab the opener 6-4 in 42 minutes, hoping for more of the same in set number two. Just like in the opener, servers stood strong in the first half of the second set and this time it was Nadal who faced troubles at 3-4, suffering a break following a costly double fault and allowing Tomas to serve for the set in the next game.

As many times before in the tense moments against the rivals from the top, the Czech experienced terrible service game to lose serve at 15, keeping Nadal in the set and drifting further away from victory. Rafa held at 15 with a forehand down the line winner in the tenth game, stealing Berdych's serve for the second straight time in the 11th game following a loose smash from the Czech who was ready to fight back in the next one, firing a forehand winner to earn a break chance.

Delivering his best serves when he needed them the most, Nadal saved that break point and two more with service winners, sealing the deal with another unreturned serve for the 12th straight win over Tomas and the place in the first ATP hard-court final since the Australian Open last year.