Spain’s Rafael Nadal defeated Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, and will play Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro for the championship on Sunday.
Del Potro upset Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 50 minutes on Saturday night.
Nadal, who needed one hour and 43 minutes to beat Berdych, is playing in his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event since injuring his knee last year.
“This seemed like something that was impossible. It was very hard to imagine something like this, but here we are today,” Nadal told reporters.
The world No. 5 is now 13-3 against Berdych, whom he has beaten 12 straight times, including seven wins on hard courts.
“I have already done more than I expected, so whatever the final result is it’ll be fantastic. I’m going to enjoy it, to give everything I have and try to win, but knowing that just being in the final is a gift,” Nadal said.
The 26-year-old Nadal, an 11-time Grand Slam champion, is back in action after not playing for seven months due to a knee injury.
Nadal began last summer on a high note by capturing a record 7th French Open title with a victory over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the final, but he went off the ATP Tour following a shocking second-round loss at Wimbledon.
The Spanish star said in August that he was suffering from a knee ailment known as Hoffa’s syndrome, which is also known as fat pad impingement and involves pain and swelling around the bottom and under the kneecap.
Del Potro is the first Argentine to reach the final at Indian Wells since Guillermo Vilas, who lost to Brian Gottfried in 1979.
The only South American tennis player to win at the event in the California desert was Marcelo Rios, who beat Greg Rusedski in the final in 1998.
A player must do “everything perfect” to beat Nadal, Del Potro said after his match.
“He is moving very fast on the baseline, so I will try to be aggressive, to go to the net, serve well and make few errors,” the 24-year-old Del Potro said.
The tall Argentine defeated Nadal 7-6, 6-4 in an exhibition match at New York’s Madison Square Garden two weeks ago.
The BNP Paribas Open is one of the biggest hard-court tournaments on the ATP calendar.
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