Rafael Nadal: Hard Courts at Indian Wells Will Be Biggest Test for Spanish Great

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IMarch 4, 2013

June 28, 2012; London, ENGLAND; Rafael Nadal (ESP) reacts during his match against Lukas Rosol (CZE) on day four of the 2012 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.  Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

After winning in Acapulco, Rafael Nadal's 2013 season couldn't be going any better.

The 11-time Grand Slam singles champion missed the second half of 2012 due to tendinitis in his knee, but he's gone 12-1 in 2013, so far. He also won the Brasil Open in mid-February.

But the biggest test for the 26-year-old Spanish great early this year will be at Indian Wells.

Nadal's victory in Acapulco can't be ignored, of course. He never lost a set in five matches in the tournament, defeating No. 3 seed Nicolas Almagro and clay-court specialist and No. 1 seed David Ferrer down the stretch. Ferrer won just two games against Nadal in the final.

But the hard courts at Indian Wells will prove to be the best barometer of where Nadal stands right now. Not only has Nadal historically played better on clay courts, the hard courts at Indian Wells will test his ailing knees this early in the season.

Nadal may even be surprised by how well he's fared, so far, in 2013. He's been plenty vocal about his troublesome knees, and it wouldn't have been a shocker to see him struggle early on. The fact that he's playing this well—even on clay courts—after tendinitis is a testament to how great a player he is.

He knows what lies ahead of him at Indian Wells, though. Getting through the early rounds of the tournament quickly will be key. He can't afford to get into long sets. His knees need all the help they can get on the tough hard courts.

Nadal is playing splendidly right now. His victory over Ferrer in Acapulco was his biggest win of the year, by far. But as he grinds away in 2013, his health is the most important thing. He needs to find ways to shorten the matches he can at Indian Wells and beyond. This isn't the same spry, aggressive player we have seen for years.

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