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 Indian Wells fourth round and toppled Roger Federer in the quarters in straight sets to set the semis clash against Tomas Berdych. After beating Rafa three times in 2005 and 2006, Berdych lost the ground entirely in their duels, losing 11 consecutive encounters against the Spaniard and not changing that in the desert, 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 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.
Rafael Nadal defeated Tomas Berdych in Indian Wells 2013.
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.
Like in the first, servers stood strong in the first half of the second set before Nadal faced troubles at 3-4, suffering a break following a costly double fault and allowing Tomas to serve for the set. As many times before in the tense moments against the rivals from the top, the Czech experienced a terrible service game to get broken 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 and stole Berdych's serve for the second straight time following a loose smash from the Czech. Berdych was ready to fight back in the next one, firing a forehand winner to earn a break chance that could have kept him in contention.
Nadal saved that break point and hit 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.