After losing the ATP throne to Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal was back in front in 2010, winning three straight Majors and completing a Career Grand Slam at the age of 24. At the beginning of 2011, the Spaniard lost to Nikolay Davydenko in Doha and David Ferrer at the Australian Open, scoring two wins for his country in the Davis Cup and heading to Indian Wells, one of his favorite events on hard court.
Prevailing against Ivo Karlovic in the quarters, Rafa advanced into the sixth straight semi-final in the desert, facing Juan Martin del Potro in the battle for the place in the final. Losing three notable matches to the young Argentine in 2009, Nadal served revenge and scored a 6-4, 6-4 triumph in an hour and 52 minutes for the fifth victory over Juan Martin in eight encounters, the first since Indian Wells two years ago.
Serving at only 56%, Rafa played well on both the first and second serve, fending off two out of three break chances and delivering three breaks to move over the top in straight sets and stay on the title clash, facing Novak Djokovic in the final.
The Spaniard had 23 winners and 20 unforced errors, leaving his opponent on a 12-26 ratio and prevailing in the shortest and most extended rallies to wrap up the win and reach the first final of the season. Del Potro fended off a break chance in the first game and moved 2-0 up when Nadal sent a forehand long in the second game, settling into a nice rhythm and opening a 3-0 lead following another backhand error from Rafa.
The Spaniard regained composure in the next couple of games, producing two comfortable holds and pulling the break back with a backhand down the line winner in game seven to get back on the positive side of the scoreboard.
Losing ground completely, Juan Martin netted a forehand in the ninth game to suffer another break, allowing Nadal to secure the set with a hold in game ten after 55 minutes, taking six of the last seven games for a complete turnaround.
Ready to fight until the end, del Potro earned two break chances in the fourth game of the second set with a backhand down the line winner, denied by two winners from Nadal who leveled the score before taking a break with a beautiful backhand down the line winner that sent him 3-2 in front.
A service winner pushed the Spaniard 4-2 ahead, firing four more direct points in game eight and sealing the deal with a hold at love at 5-4 to book the place in the final.