Rafael Nadal defeated Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday to win his third Indian Wells ATP Masters title and cement his return from a seven-month injury layoff.
The 11-time Grand Slam champion from Spain claimed his first hard court title since 2010 and a record 22nd title in an elite Masters event.
Nadal hadn’t played a hard court tournament since pulling out of the Miami Masters last March with tendinitis in his left knee — the same sort of knee trouble that would sideline him from his second-round Wimbledon exit in late June until February.
He returned last month to finish second best in Vina del Mar, followed by victories at Sao Paulo and Acapulco. But none of those clay court tourneys posed a challenge like Indian Wells, which featured 49 of the top 50 in the world.
Seeded fifth, his route to the final included a quarter-final against defending champ Roger Federer and a semi-final with World No 6 Tomas Berdych. In the final, Nadal halted the giant-killing run of 7th-ranked Argentine del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion who defeated World No 1 Novak Djokovic and World No 3 Andy Murray here.
Nadal said: “This is very emotional. A lot of things happened the last seven months, to be back here and to have this trophy with me is amazing, no?
“Beating three Top 10, three very important players, and winning a title like this is just something unbelievable for me.”