Rafael Nadal missed over half a year in 2012 and 2013 due to a left knee injury. Rafa returned to action in February and played well in March in Indian Wells. The Spaniard beat Ernests Gulbis and Roger Federer to set the semi-final clash versus Tomas Berdych.
Rafa toppled Tomas 6-4, 7-5 in an hour and 44 minutes for his 12th consecutive win over the Czech. It was Nadal's eighth successive Indian Wells semi-final, and he saved three out of four break points to keep the pressure on the other side.
Rafa stole 40% of the return points and scored three breaks from seven opportunities to seal the deal in straight sets and arrange the title clash against Juan Martin del Potro. They had a similar number of winners, and Berdych sprayed more unforced errors.
Tomas overpowered Rafa in the advanced exchanges but fell behind in the quickest rallies up to four strokes to hand the victory to a former champion.
Rafael Nadal defeated Tomas Berdych in the 2013 Indian Wells semi-final.
They settled into a fine rhythm behind the initial shot early on and wrapped up the opening six games in 23 minutes.
Nadal pulled the trigger at 3-3, stealing the rival's serve to build the advantage. Rafa fired a forehand winner in game eight to confirm the lead and force Tomas to serve to stay in the set. The Czech did that in game nine, and the Spaniard served for the opener at 5-4.
Controlling the pace with his groundstrokes, Rafa fired three winners to clinch the opener 6-4 in 42 minutes, hoping for more of the same in set number two. Like in the opener, servers stood strong in the first half of the second set.
However, Nadal faced troubles in the eighth game and experienced a break following a costly double fault, allowing Berdych to serve for the set at 5-3. As many times before in the tense moments against the rivals from the top, the Czech experienced a terrible service game to lose serve at 15 and keep the Spaniard in the set.
Rafa held at 15 with a forehand down the line winner in the tenth game to level the score and gain a boost. Nadal stole the rival's serve in the 11th game following Berdych's loose smash to open a 6-5 gap and serve for the victory.
However, Tomas was ready to fight until the end, firing a forehand winner and creating a break chance in game 12. Delivering his best serves when he needed them the most, Nadal saved a break point and two more with service winners to prolong the game.
Rafa created a match point and seized it with another unreturned serve for his 12th victory over Tomas in a row, reaching his first hard-court ATP final since the Australian Open last year.