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Nadal battles back for Indian Wells triumph

updated 8:46 AM EDT, Mon March 18, 2013
Former world No. 1 Rafael Nadal won the Indian Wells Masters for the third time.
Former world No. 1 Rafael Nadal won the Indian Wells Masters for the third time.
  • Rafael Nadal wins Indian Wells Master by beating Juan Martin del Potro
  • The win at the California event is Nadal's third tournament win of 2013
  • The Spaniard was out for seven months between July and February
  • Nadal has won 17 matches and lost one in 2013, his best ever start to a season

(CNN) -- Look out Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal is back -- and the numbers stacking up suggest he's better than ever.

After a seven-month injury layoff between July and February, the Spaniard has now won three titles since returning to the court following Sunday's 4-6 6-3 6-4 defeat of Juan Martin del Potro in the final of the Indian Wells Masters.

It was the 11-time grand slam winner's 600th ATP Tour win -- Federer is the only other active player to have reached that figure -- and it helped Nadal notch up a record 22nd Masters 1000 title.

The former world No. 1's triumph over Argentine Del Potro at the hard-court event also took him to 17 wins and one defeat for 2013 -- his best ever start to a season.

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"A lot of things happened in the last seven months, (so) to be back here and to have this very heavy trophy with me is amazing," the 26-year-old told the ATP Tour's official website after his third win at the event.

"Beating three top 10 players and winning a title like this is just something unbelievable for me. I'm very, very happy and very emotional."

However after playing 18 matches in six weeks, the new world No. 4 has pulled out of next weekend's Miami Masters, though he plans to return for April's Monte Carlo Masters, where he will bid for a ninth successive triumph at the clay court event -- the Mallorcan's favorite surface.

Read: Bromance of tennis' "marathon men"

"When you have one comeback like I'm having, you remember all the low things, lower moments that you had during those seven months," added Nadal.

"Hopefully I passed and can just remember all the people that really helped me a lot during all this time."

Del Potro had beaten third seed Murray and world No.1 Djokovic to reach the final, but conceded he couldn't match Nadal.

"I think Rafa deserved to win," said del Potro, who has lost eight of his 11 matches with Nadal. "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. He broke me early in the third. Playing against him when the score is down is tougher. I was fighting all the time but he won in the end."

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