Rafael Nadal proved that he is returning back to his best as he recovered from a set and a break down to claim a stunning victory over Juan Martin del Potro in the final of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

The Spaniard was playing in his first hard court tournament in a year after a serious knee injury threatened his career but showed his immense battling qualities to secure a 4-6 6-3 6-4 victory.

Rafa Nadal
Rafael Nadal celebrates after beating Juan Martin del Potro to lift the title in Indian Wells. [Reuters]

Since returning at the start of February, Nadal had already won clay court titles in Brazil and Mexico but this was his first big test as he entered a tournament which featured the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Having already defeated Federer, Nadal faced an in-form Del Potro who had beaten Murray in the quarter-finals and then dispatched world number one Djokovic in the semi-finals.

The Argentine, currently ranked seven in the world, had recovered from 0-4 and 15-40 to take the first set and then managed to gain a break in the second as he put together a run of nine games out of 11.

It looked as though Del Potro had had found the measure of Nadal but the Spaniard simply cranked up the power in his forehand and managed to win five games in succession to force a third set.

The 25-year-old quickly secured another break of serve in the deciding set, and despite Del Potro managing to save three match points on his own serve, he was eventually defeated as Nadal served it out to claim a sweet victory.

It was clearly an emotional moment for Nadal as he collapsed to the ground after securing victory and later admitted that this will go down as one of his most memorable victories.

"It's probably one of the most emotional victories of my career," said Nadal. "The support since I came back has been huge. It's an unforgettable week for me and an unforgettable tournament.

"I started the match playing fantastic, then Del Potro started playing a little more aggressive. In my opinion, I tried to change too early against his forehand. I was playing much too aggressive for my game.

"When I was able to calm myself, I began to play better. I started to play a little bit slower; my movement was unbelievable. Then I play a fantastic match."

Nadal revealed that he will now concentrate on preparing for the French Open by playing in clay court tournaments and will not be appearing in Miami next week.

He stated that his left knee now feels stronger and after winning one of the biggest tournaments, aside from the Majors, has shown that he will once again be a threat as he looks to win a 12th Grand Slam in Paris.