x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Rafael Nadal to rest knee after comeback victory over del Potro to lift Indian Wells title

The former world number one came back from a set and 0-2 down to beat del Potro 4-6 6-3 6-4 in the BNP Paribas Open final - then announced he would take a few weeks off to prepare his knee for the French Open build-up.

Rafael Nadal celebrates with his trophy after winning the BNP Paribas title at Indian Wells.
Rafael Nadal celebrates with his trophy after winning the BNP Paribas title at Indian Wells.

Rafael Nadal added another triumphant chapter to his remarkable comeback when he came from a set and 0-2 down to beat Juan Martín del Potro 4-6 6-3 6-4 in the BNP Paribas Open final last night.

But afterwards the Spanish former world number one announced he was withdrawing from next week's Sony Open in Miami to rest his knee over the net few weeks, before starting his build-up to the French Open.

"The doctors recommend me to be back home for a few weeks, rest a little bit and keep practising the right way," he admitted last night.

"You know, I need more power in the left leg quadriceps, so I need to keep working hard. The competition is hard for the body, so after four fantastic weeks I can't go to Miami.

"I need to prepare and rest for the next one."

Nadal, who was sidelined for seven months with a left knee injury, overcame a gritty challenge from hard-hitting del Potro to win a record 22nd ATP Masters title, and a third at Indian Wells.

The fifth see broke the Argentine in the third game of the final set and, after his opponent had saved three match points in the ninth, served out to seal victory after an absorbing final that lasted two hours 29 minutes.

The match ended with a mistimed forehand from the seventh-seeded Del Potro which floated wide and the Spaniard immediately dropped to the ground, flat on his back, while shaking his fists in celebration.

"I started the match playing fantastic, then Del Potro started playing a little more aggressive," said Nadal afterwards.

"In my opinion, I tried to change too early against his forehand. I was playing much too aggressive for my game. When I was able to calm myself, I began to play better. I started to play a little bit slower. My movement was unbelievable.

The win marked Nadal's third title of the year after appearing in four successive finals since making his comeback from injury.

He made an impressive start, holding serve after a marathon first game where he controlled a series of protracted baseline rallies, then breaking Del Potro in the second, though it took him four break points.

The Argentine was again in trouble on serve in the fourth, serving at 15-40 down, but he saved two break points before holding with a booming forehand winner down the line. Nadal surprisingly failed to hold in the fifth after dictating almost every rally, losing the game when 2009 US. Open champion Del Potro blasted a backhand cross court winner with his service return.

Growing in confidence and continually attacking with his forehand, the towering Argentine again broke Nadal in the ninth when his opponent blasted a forehand long.

Del Potro then held serve to take the first set in 54 minutes, racing 40-0 up but squandering his first two set points before finishing off with a backhand volley winner at the net and pumping his right fist in delight.

An out-of-sorts Nadal failed to hold in the first game of the second set, trailing 30-40 after a blistering forehand pass by the Argentine and then netting a forehand to give Del Potro the break.

The next four games went with serve before Nadal, urged on by roars of "Rafa, Rafa, Rafa" that echoed around the Stadium Court, broke Del Potro in the sixth when the Argentine hit a forehand long.

Del Potro was also broken in the eighth, when Nadal blasted a forehand winner into an open court, and the Spaniard then held serve to level the match at one-set all with a 105mph ace.

The Argentine survived three breaks points before holding serve in an energy-sapping first game in the final set but he failed to hold in the third as the Spaniard crunched a forehand winner down the line to lead 2-1.

There was no way back from there for Del Potro, who had upset world number three Andy Murray in the quarter-finals and top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the last four.

He did well to save three match points after going 0-40 down on serve in the ninth before holding but Nadal served out for victory in the 10th, needing only one more match point to add a third Indian Wells title to his previous wins in 2007 and 2009.

"Rafa deserves to win," Del Potro said afterwards. "He plays unbelievable for like an hour there. The last hour of the match he didn't make errors. He played so solid and put me so far to the baseline and make winners from there.

"Rafa played really well today in the second and third sets. He broke me early in the third and playing against him when the score is down is tougher, you know."

The world number seven admitted he had felt tired after two three-set encounters in quick succession against Murray and DJokovic.

"I played three sets against Murray then three sets Djokovic," he said. "But the finals are finals.

"They are special, and you get the energy from everywhere to play the finals. Rafa plays yesterday, also, so the conditions are the same for both players.

"I think my body was OK. Just he played better in the end and he deserved to win."

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE