Rafael Nadal has the chance to post one of the best-ever starts to a tennis season at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
Nadal, 35, is 15-0 for the year after winning the Melbourne Summer Set, Australian Open and Mexican Open.
He has the opportunity to win a further six matches at Indian Wells, which is the first Masters 1000 event of the season and starts on Thursday, March 10.
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Just three more victories would see him move up into third place for the longest unbeaten start to a season in the Open era. Only Novak Djokovic has enjoyed better starts to a season after going 26-0 in 2020 and 41-0 in 2011.
“The way I’ve started the season is a dream,” Nadal said at the Mexican Open.
“We believed that my career was not going to be that long and it is true that I have had physical problems. It is incredible that in 2022, I continue to compete as I am doing. I am enjoying myself to the fullest and let’s see how long it lasts.”
Roger Federer’s best start to a season was going 17-0 in 2018 while Pete Sampras did the same in 1997.
Nadal has also won his last 11 finals in a row, dating back to the 2019 Australian Open final when he was beaten in straight sets by Djokovic.
That’s the third-longest streak of consecutive wins in finals behind Nadal’s run of 14 from Monte Carlo in 2005 to the French Open in 2006, and Federer’s run of 24 from Vienna in 2003 to Bangkok in 2005.
Nadal’s start to the season is made even more impressive as there were doubts over his fitness coming into the year. He missed the last six months of 2021 with a foot injury and also tested positive for Covid-19 before travelling to Australia.
Nadal has won Indian Wells three times in 2007, 2009 and 2013, and has an 84 per cent winning record at the tournament, which is better than he has produced at any other hard-court Masters event.
If he wins the tournament for a fourth time he will equal Djokovic’s all-time record of 37 Masters titles.
Nadal would also become the oldest male player to win Indian Wells. Federer currently holds the record after winning the title in 2017 at the age of 35 years, seven months and 11 days. If Nadal wins the 2022 edition he will beat Federer’s record by two months.
Another record that might be in sight is Nadal's best-ever winning run on hard courts.
His longest streak was 25 matches from Indian Wells to Beijing in 2013, with his second best a 16-match run from the 2016 US Open to Shanghai in 2017. All 15 of his wins this season have been on hard courts.
Former world No.15 Wally Masur says there is “no ceiling” on what Nadal can achieve.
"I certainly won't put a ceiling on what Rafa can achieve,” Masur told the Australian Open website.

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“I think if he's playing this well on the hard courts...I don't like to prognosticate in terms of matches that he can win consecutively because it almost seems impossible; 15 in a row, (potentially) 17, 18, 19, it just seems quite incredible at that level. I'm loathe to say what he can do.
“I will say the French is looking pretty positive for him. If he can play this well on hard court, it's gotta put a spring in his step when he gets to Paris in May.
"But maybe we've got to be a bit like Rafa; over the years, has there been a better player at just living in the now? The past is done. The next point hasn't happened yet. He’s here, right now. This is what he does, and this is what matters most.
“Maybe we just sit back and enjoy Rafa in the now, because it seems to be how he approaches it.
"We should never doubt the champions. Never, never doubt the champions. They keep showing you something."
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