Nadal wins first title since 2006 French Open

Updated: March 18, 2007, 8:41 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- By Rafael Nadal's standards, it was a long dry spell.

Nadal captured his first title since the French Open, beating Novak Djokovic 6-2, 7-5 Sunday in the Pacific Life Open.

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"It was a very great week for me, a very, very important week," he said. "I have eight months without any title, but I came back with a big one."

When Djokovic's forehand sailed long on the final point, Nadal raised his arms, then flopped on his back and lay there a moment, arms still extended, as the fans laughed and cheered.

Rafael Nadal
Mark J. Terrill/AP PhotoNadal cruised to an opening set victory before having to fight tooth-and-nail for his first tounament title since winning the French Open.

A five-time champion last year and an 11-time winner in 2005, Nadal had gone a stretch of 12 tournaments without winning, dating to his successful defense of the title at Roland Garros last June.

He said that, even though he hadn't won for a while, his game remained essentially the same.

"Sometimes you're a little luckier, a little bit more confident," Nadal said. "But well, I wasn't a disaster in those eight months."

Nadal has been ranked No. 2 for a record 86 consecutive weeks, with Roger Federer a distant No. 1. The three-time defending champion at Indian Wells, Federer lost his first match in the event this year, ending his 41-match win string.

Asked earlier in the week if he was disappointed he wouldn't get to face Federer in the final, Nadal said, "No, no, no. Seriously, no."

After his victory over Djokovic, Nadal said he doesn't really consider himself vying with Federer for the top spot now.

"Right now, Roger's not my competition. Roger is the best in history, so my goal is continuing winning tournaments and continuing being [high] in the ranking," Nadal said.

"I think if I play like this, I can win another major."

He jumped on Djokovic quickly in the Indian Wells final.

Nadal was up 2-0 before Djokovic got his first point of the match, leading off the third game. By the end of the first set, the 19-year-old Serb had won only 12 points to Nadal's 26.

Djokovic acknowledged that he was nervous at the start.

"It's my first Masters Series final, first final of the really bigger tournaments," he said. "The stadium was more or less packed, like 15,000 people. It was a great atmosphere.

"He started playing really well. I didn't. I made a lot of mistakes, unforced errors. He played an incredible forehand and he was in control of the match in the first set."

Djokovic said Nadal's experience probably helped him.

"Even though he's only 20 years old, he has played many, many finals and grand slams and Masters Series," he said. "So It's OK. I'm not satisfied with me game today; I could do better, but I have to be positive."

Djokovic got his game going with his serves and powerful forehands in the second set, but Nadal was able to come up with the critical shots late in the set.

Tied 5-5, the Spaniard broke Djokovic's serve, wrapping up the game by whipping a powerful backhand passing shot by the charging Djokovic. Nadal then held serve to finish the championship match that lasted just 93 minutes.

Djokovic, who won his third tour title at Adelaide the first week of this year, is ranked No. 13.

On Saturday at Indian Wells, 2002 winner Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia took the women's title again, beating Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-4. A two-time champion in the desert tournament, the 23-year-old Hantuchova has not won any other tour events.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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