Two titles out of three on clay in the past month – including a drubbing of David Ferrer in the Acapulco final – showed that seven months out through injury has not affected his competitive spirit. How his left knee holds on hard courts is an unknown, though.
Yesterday, Nadal said it was too early to tell how his knee was feeling at the BNP Paribas Open, where he has practised just twice. He hopes to win but he is clearly preparing himself for it not to happen.
"I'm happy to be here in Indian Wells, it's one of my favourite tournaments without a doubt and I am going to try my best, but I don't expect anything in results here," he said. "I just expect to enjoy playing again at this level, in a Masters 1000 and if my knee continues the right way, I really hope to maintain that level on clay in Europe."
Nadal, who admitted he has "good days and bad days", said the key to improvement would be if the former outweigh the latter. Having dropped to No.5 in the rankings behind Ferrer, Nadal could play Roger Federer in the last eight here and we have seen in the past that with Nadal, anything is possible. Not that the man himself agrees.
"I don't feel that," he said. "And it's not true that every time I go to a tournament I feel I can win. When I am playing well, when I am confident, when I am fit, I feel that I can win. I have a chance to win every tournament, but I don't have that chance [here]. I really don't think it's the moment to think about this."
Heather Watson's involvement in the women's event lasted less than two hours as she was beaten 6-2, 6-4 by Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania.Laura Robson fared no better against Sweden's Sofia Arvidsson, losing 2-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1. Andy Murray is scheduled to begin his title bid on Sunday.