Indian Wells, CA – Rafael Nadal notched his 600th career win, rallying to beat Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in Sunday's final at the $4.33 million BNP Paribas Open.
The streaky match lasted nearly 2 hours, 30 minutes.
Nadal, seeded fifth, jumped out to a 3-0 lead on del Potro, who fought off a two break points to hold in the fourth game.
Del Potro brought back with a forehand return winner and consolidated the break to even the first set at 3-3.
Nadal momentarily quelled del Potro's momentum with a love service game, but the seventh-seeded del Potro won the next five games. He broke Nadal to go up 5-4 and secured the first set with a lunging forehand volley winner.
Del Potro broke Nadal to open the second set and saved a break point for a 2-0 lead.
Now, it was Nadal's turn to battle back. Down 3-1, he won five straight games to force a decisive third set.
Nadal converted his fourth break point of the third set to take a 2-1 lead, then closed out a love hold with an ace to go up 5-3.
Del Potro saved three championship points, but Nadal wound up securing his third Indian Wells title on his serve as del Potro sent a forehand return wide.
"A lot of things happened the last seven months, (so) to be back here and to have this very heavy trophy with me is amazing," Nadal said.
Nadal appeared in his fourth final in as many events this season, proving he is fully recovered from a left knee injury that sidelined him for seven months.
However, he has withdrawn from the Sony Open in Miami.
Off to the best start of his career at 17-1, the Spaniard suffered his lone setback on the year to Horacio Zeballos in the Vina del Mar final in February. He has since won 14 matches in a row, capturing clay-court titles at Sao Paulo and Acapulco, and his latest triumph will move him up to No. 4 in the world rankings.
Nadal earned his 53rd career singles title and a record 22nd ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown. He had not fared well recently in hard court finals, losing six straight following a win in Tokyo on Oct. 10, 2010.
Del Potro, meanwhile, was vying to become the first Argentine to win the title in this tournament's history. He had rallied from a set down to defeat back- to-back Top 3 opponents at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, first Andy Murray in the quarterfinals and then Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.
"I think Rafa deserved to win," del Potro said. "The last hour of the match, he played so solid and put me so far (from) the baseline and made winners. But I think I (had) a good tournament anyway, and Rafa played really well today in the second and third sets."
Nadal improved his head-to-head record against del Potro to 8-3.