Comeback king Nadal sets sight on French Open

2013-03-18 11:24

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Indian Wells – The fist pump was back, along with the crunching forehand crosscourt winners, energetic movement and the never-say-die attitude.

Most significantly, the ‘W’ was there as Rafael Nadal yesterday won his third title in just four events since making his long-awaited return to the ATP Tour after seven months out with an injured left knee.

The Spaniard’s pulsating 4-6 6-3 6-4 victory over Juan Martin Del Potro in the final of the BNP Paribas Open served as a timely reminder that the claycourt specialist will once again be the player to beat at the French Open starting in late May.

“He’s like always, like in the past, he’s playing so solid, so strong,” purred Argentine Del Potro who, while bitterly disappointed after his defeat at Indian Wells, felt Nadal was back to his very best.

“He’s very strong mentally. He has big talent, as well. He beat very good players here at Indian Wells. He’s gonna be fighting for the first position (in the rankings) very soon.”

A few weeks ago, claycourt specialist Nadal was not even sure if he would be able to play on the punishing hard courts at Indian Wells, a surface where his all-action, counter-punching game has often been least effective.

However, the world number five decided to return to the California desert venue where he had previously clinched the BNP Paribas Open in 2007 and 2009, and he ended a week of steady progress by landing his 22nd ATP Masters title.

The Spanish left-hander may initially have had his doubts over how his knee would stand up to his most rigorous test since returning to the ATP circuit last month, but those soon abated as he passed the test with flying colours.

“It's sort of expected, considering the success throughout his career that he had on all the surfaces,” world number one Novak Djokovic said of Nadal’s comeback form before the Serb was ousted by Del Potro in the semi-finals.

“Obviously he's building the confidence. He feels good, and he’s very motivated, I’m sure, to perform his best. He’s been playing great tennis.”

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