It began cautiously, almost fearfully, with limited expectations five weeks ago down in Vina del Mar, Chile.
Sunday the return of Rafael Nadal was completed on a sun-splashed afternoon of high emotion in the California desert when the Spaniard recovered from a set and 1-3 down to beat Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 and win the BNP Paribas Open for the third time in seven years.
By doing so Nadal won his 600th match on the ATP tour and passed Roger Federer to claim his 22nd Masters 1000 title -- a record. It was also Rafa's third title out of the four tournaments he has played since his return. But this occasion was about so much more than statistics.
Nadal, without the ability to compete, is like a man dying of thirst amongst the sands that surround Indian Wells. He needs it, thrives on it and when pushed to his limits he blossoms like the spring which now awaits him -- along with his beloved clay courts -- in Europe.
The announcement that Nadal has taken the sensible d...