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Pro Media & News

Taylor Fritz downs Rafael Nadal for 'dream' title in Indian Wells

Arthur Kapetanakis | March 20, 2022

Taylor Fritz powered past Rafael Nadal, 6-3, 7-6(5), to earn a pair of career-defining firsts on Sunday in the BNP Paribas Open men's singles final. Playing in his home tournament, the Southern California product won his first ATP Masters 1000 title and scored his first win over a member of the 'Big 3.'

 

He also ended Rafael Nadal's perfect start to the 2022 season, dropping the 21-time Grand Slam champion to 20-1 on the year.

 

"This is seriously like a childhood dream come true, like a wild dream you never expect to actually happen. It really hasn't even sunk in," Fritz said, fighting back tears.

 

The 24-year-old is the first American man to win the BNP Paribas Open since Andre Agassi in 2001, and the youngest man to win in Indian Wells since Novak Djokovic in 2011.

Photo credit: Getty Images

But the Rancho Santa Fe native nearly pulled out of the BNP Paribas Open championship match before even taking the court.

 

After tweaking his ankle late in his semifinal win over Andrey Rublev, Fritz reaggravated the problem as he started a warm-up session early on Sunday. After feeling "the worst pain imaginable," he spent nearly an hour receiving treatment from the tournament doctor.

 

He then went back out for another hitting session and decided to play—against the wishes of his team, including coaches Michael Russell and Paul Annacone.

 

"It was a game-time decision," Fritz said in his post-match presser, before explaining his thought process: "The way it feels right now, I'd be thinking about it for a long time if I don't at least go out and try to play. That's what I told [my team]. They said they don't agree but they'll back my decision. I apologized to them for being so incredibly stubborn."

Fritz's fast start belied his hectic preparations, as he raced to a 4-0 lead with an explosive opening sequence that pinned Nadal on the back foot.

 

After Nadal left the court for a medical timeout, the second set was a much tighter affair. Fritz instantly recovered an early break, then saved four break points at 2-all and another at 4-all.

 

The American produced one of the shots of the match to save the third break point in that 2-all game, batting a reflex volley past a charging Nadal after a lightning exchange with both men at the net. But it was from the baseline where Fritz did most of his damage in the contest, his forehand firing on all cylinders as he hit 21 winners.

 

"Since the last edition of this tournament, it's been the forehand that's really been clicking for me. Just being able to unload and trust it," he said.

 

"It used to be a shot that would just misfire, almost lose me matches. Now it's like I can trust it no matter what to really pull the trigger on a big point, get extra free points."

 

Unable to match him for power, Nadal opted to counterpunch as he battled deep into the second set. Fritz saw a championship point go begging at 5-4, then trailed by a mini-break late in the breaker. But he won the last three points in a row, capped with a classic serve-forehand, one-two punch, before collapsing to the court in celebration.

"After the match I kept saying, 'No way, no way.' I can't believe it's real," he said. "I signed the camera, I just put question marks. Stunned. Couldn't even believe it."

 

With the victory, Fritz moves up to a career-high of world No. 13 and reclaims the title of American No. 1 from Reilly Opelka. He is hopeful of playing this week at the Miami Open, but a Monday MRI will reveal the full extent of his ankle problem.

 

"It's obviously questionable right now," he said. "I feel bad for [my team], I'm so stubborn."

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