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Rafael Nadal poses with an over-sized cut-out of his face on the eve of his 2016 BNP Paribas Open campaign.

Nadal Hungry For Four

Three-time former champion returns to Indian Wells as No. 4 seed

The last time Rafael Nadal clutched the BNP Paribas Open trophy in Indian Wells it was a punctuation mark on a successful return from a seven-month injury lay-off. It was 2013, and his three-set triumph over Juan Martin del Potro marked his third straight title of the season and a springboard to cementing year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

Three years on, the Spaniard returns to Indian Wells as the No. 4 seed with a 44-8 record in the desert. He begins his quest for a fourth BNP Paribas Open against either Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller or Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic.

“I am practising hard and happy to be here with time and doing the right things [to prepare],” Nadal said. “I lost two matches at the beginning of the season that I could win and should probably win.

“I feel ready to keep going mentally and physically. I’m excited to be in Indian Wells, a tournament I love so much.”

Clay-court defeats to Dominic Thiem and Pablo Cuevas back-to-back in Brazil will have little bearing on Nadal as he contests his first hard-court event since his surprise first-round loss to compatriot Fernando Verdasco at the Australian Open. He could meet Verdasco – his Indian Wells doubles partner – again in the third round.

“South America was crazy humidity. It was very difficult to play in those extreme conditions – the temperatures and humidity were so high,” Nadal said. “I’m much better than last year in terms of personal feelings. Last year I was so nervous when I was competing. 

"This year I lost matches that I believed I could win, but I was prepared and didn’t have those negative feelings in terms of being without control of my breathing and being too nervous. This year I didn’t have the best possible results but I’m working hard to change that.”

Reflecting on the confidence boost his third BNP Paribas Open delivered in 2013, Nadal predicted the player he defeated in that final, del Potro, could similarly use his return to Indian Wells to bolster his mindset in a long road back from injury. The Argentine is contesting just his second tournament since wrist surgery curtailed his 2015 season.

“It was obvious in the first tournament he played he did amazing, reaching the semi-finals [in Delray Beach], winning some great matches against tough players after a long time,” Nadal said. “When I arrived here in 2013 I never thought I’d have a chance to win the title. He can do it, yes.

“It’s true that he has amazing potential and amazing tennis. He has the level to do it if he’s playing well.”

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