INDIAN WELLS, California, – Simply reaching the quarter-finals of the BNP Paribas Open was a victory in itself for Rafa Nadal as he celebrated a 4-6 6-4 7-5 win over Latvian qualifier Ernests Gulbis on Wednesday.
The Spanish left-hander enthralled a near-capacity crowd at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, coming from a set down in the fourth round to improve his record this year to 14-1 on his return from seven months on the sidelines with a knee injury.
Nadal showed no visible sign of discomfort as he took control in the last two sets, though he was unable to move as freely as he would have liked, especially forward and back, against a player known for his audacious shot-making.
“Today my movements weren’t perfect, you know,” said the 26-year-old, a twice champion at Indian Wells who won his 11th grand slam title at the French Open last June.
“Against a player like Ernests, the right thing to do, in my opinion, is play against his backhand and change to his forehand quick, no? But, today I didn’t have legs for that.
“Changing direction from behind not from side is much more difficult, so I felt more comfortable with my movements playing against his backhand. I felt if I changed directions I had to run more, too.”
Asked how his knee felt after his second match in five days, Nadal replied: “I said before the tournament my knee is some days good, some days not that good. Today so-so.
“But I fight. I fight every ball. I tried my best in every moment. I know I cannot go to some balls that in the past I went today, but I will do it in the future.
“So to win matches on days like today is more important than ever for me, and I am very happy about what I did on court, happy about the attitude,” added the Spaniard, who had his left knee taped up through the match.