Nadal v. Nalbandian: A Third Round Slugfest

Michael LanichCorrespondent IMarch 27, 2010

INDIAN WELLS, CA - MARCH 20:  Rafael Nadal of Spain  reacts to a lost point to Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia during the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open on March 20, 2010 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Shortly after his Australian Open win last year and arguably at the height of his power, Rafael Nadal fought an epic match against David Nalbandian at the BNP Paribas Masters enroute to winning the coveted hard court title. 

Unfortunately for Nadal, what a match he had to get through in order to advance to the next round of the tournament.

Nalbandian looked like it was in the bag, a win all but formality.  However, match point after match point Nadal dug deep to find a way to stop what seemed an inevitable conclusion: a Nadal loss.

And so Rafael Nadal fought, clawed, scraped and fist pumped his way to victory and one of the best matches of 2009. 

Oh, and it was  his first ever victory over Nalbandian, who is one of only a few players on tour with a winning record over Nadal.

And so here we are again. 

Not Rafa vs Roger today, but Rafa vs Nalbandian and it's time to wonder who will win this time around.  Obviously March of last year is a long way off.  So much has changed for Rafa and the tennis world that his victory over Nalbandian is little more than a minor confidence booster.

Nadal has found it difficult to fully get back on track and more importantly get back to his winning ways.  After his surprising loss in the semis of the BNP Paribas Masters last week, he is now fourth in the world, and far below where I am sure he feels he should be.

So this match and this tournament are far more important than ever.  A second win against Nalbandian and the possibility of a championship trophy might be all Rafa needs to get fully back on track and ready to ascend up the rankings once more.

So, who will win tomorrow?  Nadal or Nalbandian?