From Doubt to Glory: Rafael Nadal's Remarkable 2013 Indian Wells Triumph

Rafael Nadal defeated Juan Martin del Potro in the 2013 Indian Wells final

by Jovica Ilic
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From Doubt to Glory: Rafael Nadal's Remarkable 2013 Indian Wells Triumph
© Stephen Dunn / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal has always enjoyed competing in Indian Wells, reaching the third round at 17 and the semi-final at 19. The Spaniard claimed three titles in the desert, and the last one is his most cherished one. Rafa headed to Indian Wells 2013 following a severe left knee injury that kept him off the court for eight months.

Rafa played his first hard-court event in a year and took down Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin del Potro for an emotional title. Thus, the Spaniard claimed his first notable ATP title since Roland Garros last June, announcing his comeback and warning his opponents.

Rafa claimed another Roland Garros title in June 2012 before two early exits on grass.

Rafael Nadal, Indian Wells 2013© Matthew Stockman / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Nadal left the pain in his knee, deciding to wrap up the season after Wimbledon and make a fresh start in 2013.

The king of clay returned in Vina del Mar, losing a thrilling final to Horacio Zeballos and experiencing a stunner. Nadal raised his level in Sao Paulo and Acapulco, dropping two sets in nine matches and lifting two trophies for the confidence boost ahead of Indian Wells.

Rafa prevailed over Ernests Gulbis with a late break in the decider, arranging the quarter-final clash with his greatest rival, Roger Federer. The Spaniard scored a dominant victory and ousted Tomas Berdych in the semi-final for a place in the title clash.

Juan Martin del Potro stood on the other side, and Nadal notched a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory, claiming his 22nd Masters 1000 title at 26. Rafa improved his 2013 score to 17-1, winning the third title and preparing for more during the clay-court swing.

Interestingly, it was Rafa's first hard-court ATP title since Tokyo 2010, preparing the ground for a perfect hard-court summer. Nadal wrote the tournament's history books, becoming the third three-time champion after Michael Chang and Roger Federer.

Del Potro made a stronger start, leading 6-4, 2-0 before Nadal launched his comeback, claiming 12 of the final 17 games to emerge at the top.

Rafael Nadal, Indian Wells 2013© Stephen Dunn / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafa produced more reliable numbers behind the second serve, earning many chances to seal the deal earlier.

Del Potro fought well, denying 14 out of 18 break points and seizing all three return chances. Nadal had more winners and fewer unforced errors, taming his strokes nicely after the opener. Juan Martin created the buffer in the forced errors department, battling hard for every point before Rafa found a way to bring the victory home.

Rafael Nadal claimed his third Indian Wells title in 2013 after a severe injury.

The Argentine had a slim edge in the shortest exchanges thanks to his booming serve and the initial forehand. In contrast, the Spaniard dominated the more extended ones, earning the win in that area.

Rafa grabbed a break in the second game of the encounter with a forehand down the line winner and held in the next one for 3-0. Juan Martin overcame more issues behind the initial shot in the fourth game, holding with a forehand winner and getting his name on the scoreboard.

The Argentine pulled the break back in game five with a return winner and held at 15 in the next one with an unreturned serve for 3-3 and a boost. Juan Martin clinched another break in game nine, welcoming Rafa's forehand error and serving for the set at 5-4.

Rafael Nadal, Indian Wells 2013© Stephen Dunn / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Del Potro wrapped up the opener with a volley winner, sealing the set in 53 minutes and moving closer to his first Masters 1000 title.

Carried by this boost, the Argentine clinched another break at the beginning of the second set and brought the next one home for a 6-4, 2-0 lead. Nadal improved his forehand, serving better in the upcoming games and seeking his return chances.

They came in the sixth game when he pulled the break back after del Potro's loose forehand, locking the result at 3-3 and launching his comeback. The Spaniard held at 15 in game seven with a forehand winner and moved in front.

Rafa painted a forehand down the line winner for a break chance in the eighth game, and Juan Martin saved it with a forehand winner. Nadal seized another break chance with a forehand winner for a 5-3 advantage. The Spaniard fired three winners in the ninth game, wrapping up the set 6-3 after an ace and forcing a decider after an hour and 36 minutes.

Del Potro survived the opening game before netting a volley at 1-1, offering Nadal two break chances. Rafa painted a forehand winner on the first, moving in front and closer to the finish line. Nadal cemented the advantage with a service winner in the fourth game, establishing a 3-1 lead.

Rafael Nadal, Indian Wells 2013© Matthew Stockman / Staff - Getty Images Sport

They held at love in the next two games, and Rafa repeated that in game eight for 5-3. The Spaniard fired a forehand winner in the ninth game, creating three match points.

The Argentine fended them off with brave hitting and held with a crafty drop shot, reducing the deficit to 5-4. Rafa served for the title in game ten and landed two winners for two match points. Nadal seized the first, starting a massive celebration of an emotional title following setbacks in the previous eight months.

"My favorite Indian Wells memory came in 2013. Winning the title over Juan Martin del Potro felt special after overcoming a severe knee injury and playing my first hard-court event in a year. I did not play for eight months, returning on clay ahead of Indian Wells.

Actually, I did not know if I should play Indian Wells, with the doctors advising me to avoid hard courts and rest my knee. I decided to enter Indian Wells, seeking a couple of wins. I wanted to test my mindset on the hard court, and I ended up winning the tournament. It was an emotional and special moment," Rafael Nadal said.

Alex De Minaur Jannik Sinner Rafael Nadal
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