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Indian Wells, California, Mar 18 (EFE).- Spain's Rafael Nadal rallied from a set and a break down to defeat Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and capture his third Indian Wells title, continuing his highly successful comeback to the ATP Tour.
Nadal got off to a 3-0 lead in the first set of Sunday afternoon's BNP Paribas Open final and had break points for a 4-0 advantage against a sluggish-looking Del Potro, who had logged many more hours on court this week than the Spaniard.
But the momentum swung swiftly in Del Potro's favor after he staved off those break points and got on the scoreboard.
He subsequently broke Nadal's serve twice en route to a 6-4 first-set win and then grabbed another break in the opening game of the second set as the Spaniard struggled with unforced errors and Del Potro's powerful forehand.
The 11-time Grand Slam champion, however, broke back for 3-3 when Del Potro sent a forehand long and then dominated the remainder of the second set.
Fatigue then was the major factor in the third set, as the Argentine paid the price for his pair of hard-fought, three-set victories on Friday and Saturday over world No. 3 Andy Murray and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, respectively.
Del Potro went down an early break and nearly lost his serve again when serving to stay in the match at 5-3.
He managed to stave off three championship points, but Nadal held serve to claim a record 22nd ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title a game later.
Nadal, who was forced to pull out of last year's London Olympics and U.S. Open due to a knee injury and then withdrew from this year's Australian Open because of a stomach virus, started his comeback early last month at a small clay-court event in Viña de Mar, Chile, losing in the final there to Argentina's Horacio Zeballos.
But he hasn't lost a match since, winning two other Latin American clay-court events in Sao Paulo and Acapulco, Mexico, and making a surprisingly smooth transition to hard courts by capturing the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
That latter tournament is one of nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events, which rank just below the four Grand Slams and the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in terms of ranking points and prestige.