Rafael Nadal – The Feel Good Story of 2013

We’re barely in the middle of March, but it’s hard to find a better fit than Rafael Nadal for comeback of the year, winning his first Hard Court title in nearly 3 years after almost looking like someone who won’t be playing tennis for much longer, maybe even giving up the sport.

Seriously, it’s impossible to have better comeback, no? Happy for everything.

Nadal is now 17-1 in 2013, winning his first Masters Tournament since Rome last year, and his first title on a hard court since his nearly perfect 2010 season, capped off by winning the Tokyo tournament in October. Nearly three years off the surface he blames for banging his knees, making him miss more than six months of tennis, an Olympic tournament and two Grand Slams.

Now, he seems to be back, although he hasn’t faced Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic yet. The two weren’t at their best at Indian Wells, missing out on the final and getting to play Nadal after a very long time for both of them. Nadal had to settle for Juan Martin Del Potro in the Indian Wells final, beating the Argentinian 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, winning his third straight tournament.

That’s makes emotional week for me. Very important victory for me, winning against the best players of the world on a surface that is good for them.

Nadal is acting like the Hard Court is there to service everyone but do the opposite for him, but he can be indulged in some needless complaining after such a long time away from the game. He withdrew from the next tournament in Miami, preferring to keep the load on his body light, and even easier on his knees, waiting for Clay season to begin in Europe, setting himself up for another Roland Garros win.

Things went from easy to tough and easy again in California for Nadal, beating Ryan Harrison in the opening match before needing three sets to beat Ernesto Gulbis. Against Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych it should have been harder, but he needed four sets to beat the two of them, unlike the hard time he had in the final against Del Potro, who came out firing early on, only to whither away, as usual, against Nadal’s tour de force.

I try to put the match in a little bit slower rhythm and wait for the right moments to go for the point and worked well. Del Potro is a fantastic player, so it’s not easy to change the dynamic of the match like this.

For Del Potro, it was a chance to beat three top 10 players in the same tournament, after dispatching of both Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic in three sets, becoming only the second Argentine since Guillermo Villas in 1977 to reach the Indian Wells final.

For Nadal, who has now won three tournaments (Brazil, Acapulco, Indian Wells) and reached the final of another (VTR Open in Chile), it was a statement. He may not be competing for all the titles, but he’ll be there for the important ones, and he’s just as a threat to win them as in the past.

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