Nadal graciously embraces No. 2 ranking

Updated: 2007-03-21 09:00

Rafael Nadal has no trouble accepting his No. 2 ranking behind Roger Federer.

"Right now, Roger's not my competition. Roger is the best in history, so my goal is continuing winning tournaments and continuing being (high) in the ranking," Nadal said Sunday after his victory in the Pacific Life Open.

"I think if I play like this, I can win another major."

The 20-year-old Spaniard defeated Novak Djokovic 6-3, 7-5 Sunday to end what was -- for him -- a long winless streak. The championship was his first since he successfully defended his French Open title last June.

"It was a very great week for me, a very, very important week," Nadal said. "I have (gone) eight months without any title, but I came back with a big one."

When Djokovic's forehand sailed long on the final point, Nadal raised his arms, then flopped on his back and lay there a moment, arms still extended, as the fans laughed and cheered.

A five-time champion last year and an 11-time winner in 2005, Nadal had gone a stretch of 12 tournaments without a title.

"Sometimes you're a little luckier, a little bit more confident," he said. "But well, I wasn't a disaster in those eight months."

Federer, the three-time defending champion at Indian Wells, lost his first match in the tournament this year to end his 41-match win string.

Nadal was asked after he beat No. 3 Andy Roddick in straight sets in the semifinals if he was disappointed that he wouldn't be playing Federer in the final.

"No, no, no," he said, smiling. "Seriously, no."

He got off to a quick start and Djokovic struggled early in their Indian Wells final.

Nadal was up 2-0 before Djokovic got his first point, leading off the third game. By the end of the first set, the 19-year-old Serb had won only 12 points to Nadal's 26.

Djokovic said he was nervous.

"It's my first Masters Series final, first final of the really bigger tournaments," he said. "The stadium was more or less packed, like 15,000 people. It was a great atmosphere.

"He started playing really well. I didn't. I made a lot of mistakes, unforced errors. He played an incredible forehand and he was in control of the match in the first set."

Djokovic said Nadal's experience probably helped him.

"Even though he's only 20 years old, he has played many, many finals and grand slams and Masters Series," he said. "So It's OK. I'm not satisfied with me game today; I could do better, but I have to be positive."

Djokovic got his game going with his serves and powerful forehands in the second set, but Nadal was able to come up with critical shots late in the set.

Tied 5-5, the Spaniard broke Djokovic's serve, wrapping up the game by whipping a powerful backhand passing shot by the charging Djokovic. Nadal then held serve to finish the championship match that lasted just 93 minutes.

Djokovic, who won his third tour title at Adelaide the first week of this year, is ranked No. 13.

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