Fritz captures biggest title in Indian Wells, hands Nadal first loss in 2022

Following in Cameron Norrie’s 2021 footsteps, Taylor Fritz became the second consecutive surprise men’s singles champion at the Indian Wells Masters on Sunday. Fritz handed Rafael Nadal his first loss of the season.

Taylor Fritz, Indian Wells 2022 Taylor Fritz, Indian Wells 2022 © Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/SIPA

Rafael Nadal is undefeated no more in 2022.

In a last-man-standing kind of battle, Taylor Fritz overcame an ankle injury to upset Nadal — who was also struggling physically — 6-3, 7-6(5) in the BNP Paribas Open final on Sunday afternoon. Fritz captured by far the biggest title of his career after two hours and six minutes.

The 24-year-old’s only previous winner’s trophy had come at a 250 event in Eastbourne three years ago, and he had been just 1-5 lifetime in ATP finals prior to Sunday.

I’m going to have to hold back tears.

Taylor Fritz

This performance may not have been the best of his career, which was understandable given the pressure, his ankle issue, and windy conditions. But it was definitely the gutsiest. And he saved it for the final of his favorite tournament. Fritz is a California native who grew up watching Indian Wells both on television and in person — watching guys like none other than Nadal.

“I’m going to have to hold back tears for every single interview I do, every single on-court speech,” the world No. 20 said. “This is going to be tough because I’m such a happy crier. Winning this tournament especially, Indian Wells, this is one of those childhood dreams that you just never think can come true. I just keep saying, ‘No, no. Just no way it’s real.'”

Fritz makes miraculous recovery

It is even more hard to believe considering the shape in which Fritz found himself during pre-match practice. He had suffered an ankle injury late in his semi-final win over Andrey Rublev and could not make it through his practice. Reports surfaced that he may not even be able to play the match.

“I can’t even begin to describe how ridiculous it is that I was able to play how I could play today,” Fritz commented. “I’ve never experienced worse pain in my life before a match. We did a lot of work leading up to the match and I went through a roller coaster of emotions before the match, from thinking there was no way I could possibly play to then doing all this work on the ankle, doing so much stuff to it…. I came out here and it didn’t really affect me at all.”

Little chance for a hobbled Nadal

It was actually Nadal who was struggling. The 35-year-old Spaniard sustained an apparent pectoral injury during his semi-final victory over Carlos Alcaraz and it clearly had an impact on Sunday’s match. Nadal dropped the first four games, and although he showed signs of improvement the rest of the way it was too little, too late. This was one comeback that Nadal could not make, but he did have a chance when leading 5-4 in the second-set tiebreaker. The 21-time Grand Slam champion should have put away a swinging forehand volley, but a shocking unforced error proved to be costly.

“(I) tried til’ the end,” Nadal assured. “That’s it. Even (though) I had my chances in the second set, I didn’t convert too many chances. That’s it, no? I think it’s a difficult match to analyze personally from my side because I was not able to do many things. But, yeah, it’s a great victory for him — first Masters 1000. Big day for him. I just hope he enjoys it. I wish him all the very best.”

Fritz becomes the first American man since Andre Agassi in 2011 to take the title Indian Wells. He will reach a career-high ranking of No. 13 in the world on Monday.

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