On Saturday, the 21-time Major champion Rafael Nadal had to dig deep to avoid the second-round exit in Indian Wells. A three-time winner defeated Sebastian Korda 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 in two hours and 29 minutes, coming from 5-2 down in the decider to avoid an early exit.
Thus, Nadal remains perfect in 2022, winning all 16 matches and starting a title chase of his first crown in the desert since 2013. Rafa played on a high level in the opening set, continuing where he left in Acapulco and looking good to score a quick victory.
Instead, Sebastian raised his level against his idol and dominated set number two to force a decider and gain a massive boost. With everything working his way, Korda built a huge 5-2 advantage in the decider, firing from both wings and moving closer to his career-best victory.
Starting his engines in the last moment, Rafa pulled one break back in game eight and survived in game ten to deliver the second break and lock the result at 5-5. Nadal sprayed a forehand error in the 11th game to face a break point, saving it after a massive forehand mistake from Korda and surviving until the tie break.
Leading 3-2, Sebastian sent a backhand wide and lost momentum, allowing Rafa to claim five straight points and emerge at the top. Nadal admitted he believed he was lost at 2-5, keeping his fighting spirit and finding a way towards victory.
Rafael Nadal scored a massive victory over Sebastian Korda in Indian Wells.
"I thought I was lost, like in the Australian Open final. That does not mean I'm going to stop fighting and trying. Even if I think I'm going to lose the match, my mind at 2-5 thinks: 'Okay, I'm playing poorly, and I'm two breaks down, but even if I'm going to lose, I want to finish the match with a good feeling.'
Sebastian started to get a little more nervous at 5-2, spraying more mistakes. I'm fortunate to overcome the deficit and bring the victory home, but I will have to play better in the next round. It's never easy to serve out for the win at 5-4, and we all feel the pressure.
If you say you do not, you are either lying or not caring about the sport. I can not make a comeback in every match; that's not possible. I do not have the incredible self-confidence to overcome a 5-2 deficit. It's almost impossible, but I do not want to give up.
I will keep trying, even when my odds do not exist. I'm trying to force my rival to beat me without helping him. If nothing, I'm trying to make things more complicated for him. While trailing 5-2 in the decider, there's a 90% chance you will lose. If you do not try, you are losing 100%," Rafael Nadal said.