Rafael Nadal | AFP
Indian Wells: Rafael Nadal's never-say-die attitude stood him in good stead again Saturday, as the Spaniard crafted a third-set rally to beat Sebastian Korda at Indian Wells.
Nadal, who engineered an epic comeback from two sets down against Daniil Medvedev to win his 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, said the key to comebacks was simple: "keep fighting."
"I was super lucky today to be through, honestly," Nadal said after trailing by two breaks in the third set n the way to a 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (7/3) victory over Korda in the WTA and ATP Masters event.
With his latest Houdini act, Nadal improved his perfect record in 2022 to 16-0.
The best-ever start to a season in his legendary career includes not only his record-setting Aussie Open triumph but a title in Acapulco as well.
Nadal, currently ranked fourth in the world, said the streak wasn't a source of pressure.
"I would say the opposite," he said. "The pressure is when you've been losing games and you have to win.
"This gives you more peace of mind ... The start of the year has been incredible and even if I had lost today I would have gone home with a fantastic start."
But he said he didn't play his best against Korda, a rising 21-year-old star ranked 38th in the world.
The American led the third set 5-2 and twice served for the match. But he couldn't conjure a match point as Nadal reeled off four games in a row as they went to a tiebreaker.
Korda gained the upper hand in the tiebreaker, too, leading 3-2, but a steady and determined Nadal won the last five points to wrap up the victory on his first match point.
"Even if I think I'm going to lose the match, my mindset before returning that 5-2 game is, 'OK I am playing bad, I had two breaks, but even if I'm going to lose, I'm going to try to finish the match having some better feelings,'" Nadal said.
"So I need to fight to find these better feelings in that last game.
"I played a little bit better. He had some mistakes. Then with 5-3, if you are able to save that game, 5-4, you never know what can happen."
Although once on court Nadal is ready to fight to the finish, the often injured 35-year-old acknowledged that he has to be circumspect in setting his schedule.
To that end, his withdrawl from the upcoming Miami Masters was announced Saturday before he even took the court for his Indian Wells opener.
Nadal, who feared last year that his left foot injury was so bad he might never play again, said that regardless of how far he goes at Indian Wells the time off would allow him to rest and prepare for the clay court season.
"Everybody knows that my body is how it is, especially my foot," said Nadal, who told reporters before the tournament that his foot "is not going to be 100% recovered, never.
"Pain, I have dire pain on the foot."
"I need to be all the time finding the right balance to keep going," Nadal said. "If I am doing extra efforts it can be the end for me. Even if I would love to play in Miami and I would love to play in a lot of places, I can't, I need to make my decisions and I need to follow my body and I need to follow my priorities." AFP