Indian Wells – Remarkable Nadal

Before I arrived for the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, it was unclear whether or not Rafael Nadal would play. In his previous three tournaments, he’d reached the finals in Chile and won both the Brazil and Mexico Opens. After seven months of knee rehab, his comeback was already impressive; but all of his matches had been played on clay’s more forgiving surface. How would the knee hold-up on the hard-court?

His confidence sky-high after demolishing David Ferrer in the Acapulco Final, Rafa committed to the BNP Paribas Open…a decision he most certainly won’t regret. Not only did he prove to himself that the knee is ready for top-level competition on quicker surfaces, he proved to the entire tennis community that last year’s injury was a minor setback; that he has a lot of tennis left to play.

With a first round bye, Rafa cruised past Ryan Harrison, enjoyed an extra day of rest with a third-round walk-over on Leonardo Mayer, won a three-setter over Ernests Gulbis, easily defeated an ailing (back) Roger Federer in the quarterfinals, took just two-sets to dispatch Tomas Berdych in the semis, then won the final 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 over Juan Martin del Potro.

Nadal is now 17-1 in 2013, his best ever start to a season. He’s now won 22 Masters titles, 53-titles in all, and Sunday was his 600th match win. He jumps David Ferrer, and is now #4 in the world behind Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. (David was bounced early in the tournament by South African Kevin Anderson, who made it to the quarterfinals).

While most head to Miami for the Sony Open this week and next, Nadal will take a month off to rest the knee and assess progress, planning a return to clay during the Masters event in Monte Carlo. Roger Federer will rest his back and tune-up on clay, planning his return for Madrid come May.

Maria Sharapova didn’t lose a single set and demolished her half of the draw in Indian Wells, taking out Fracesca Schiavone, Carla Suarez Navarro, Lara Arruabarrena, Sara Errani and Maria Kirilenko; before dominating Caroline Wozniacki in the Final 6-2, 6-2. It’s Maria’s second title in Indian Wells, her first of 2013 and 28th of her career.

In their 15th attempt, Bob and Mike Bryan finally won the elusive Indian Wells title over the impressive pairing of Treat Huey and hard-serving Jerzy Janowicz. Through the draw, it took several match tie-breaks just to make it to the final, where they finally hoisted the trophy after winning 6-3, 3-6, 10-6. Bob, after the match: “Winning in Australia was one of our biggest goals of the year and probably our next goal was to win this tournament, since it has eluded us over the years…We’ve always had friends and family here, so it was nice to finally be able to give them this gift. They’ve seen some heartbreaks, so it’s great to win for them.” That’s four titles for the brothers already this season: Sydney, the Australian Open, Memphis and now Indian Wells.

It was nearly an all-Russian final in Women’s Doubles as Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina also won a match tie-break over Nadia Petrova and Katerina Srebotnik 6-0, 5-7, 10-6. It was Vesnina’s third doubles title at Indian Wells, ninth of her career and Makarova’s fourth career doubles title.