Three-time Indian Wells champion Rafael Nadal got off to a strong start on Wednesday at the BNP Paribas Open, powering past Guido Pella 6-3, 6-2 in his opening match at the 2017 event. The fifth seed’s legendary return of serve was on fire throughout the match, breaking serve five times in the match to advance in an hour and 22 minutes.
Quick turnaround for Spaniard
Despite being a massive underdog, it was Pella who got off to a quicker start, attacking the fifth seed’s serve in the third game. Nadal saved a pair of break points, but could not hold off the Argentine for long as he was broken at the third time of asking to surrender the lead early in the opening set. However, as he often has throughout his storied career, Nadal was quick to bounce back. He raced to a 15-40 lead in the very next game and converted his second break point to immediately level back at 2-2.
The quick response gave the Spaniard momentum and he would ride it to a triple break point opening in Pella’s next service game. This time, Nadal only needed to be asked once as he would break to love and consolidate with a hold for a 5-2 lead. There would be no chance for a comeback for Pella, as the pair exchanged holds to 30 to close the opening set 6-3 in favour of the fifth seed.
Strong returning sends Nadal through
Nadal seemed ready to run away with the match when he broke Pella in the opening game of the second set, but the Argentine wasn’t going away quietly. He would respond by taking a 0-40 lead in the following game and, just as Nadal had in the opening set, responded to having his own serve broken by breaking back immediately to level the score.
After the pair exchanged holds, the Spaniard would up his level. Nadal would claw a game away from Pella, forcing a deuce after the Argentine had led 40-15 and broke at 40-AD to take a 3-2 lead. Pella very nearly responded again, taking a 0-40 lead in the next game, but the three-time Indian Wells champion showed his famous resiliency, saving all three break points and holding serve. He would turn around and extend his lead to a double-break in the following game for a 5-2 lead. Serving for the match, Nadal made no mistake, holding to book his place in the second round.
By the Numbers
While he was nothing spectacular on serve, Nadal was ruthless on return, winning more than 50 percent of Pella’s service points. Under the relentless pressure from the Spaniard, Pella only won 48 percent of his first and 42 percent of his second serve points. Nadal also managed to convert five of his six break points, while saving six of eight on his own serve.
In the third round, Nadal will take on Fernando Verdasco for the second year in a row. The pair met at the same stage of Indian Wells last year, with Nadal winning in straight sets. However, Verdasco has won three of their last five meetings.