Nadal stays perfect in 2022 by holding off Alcaraz in Indian Wells semi-finals

In a must-see all-Spanish semi-final on Saturday in Indian Wells, veteran Rafael Nadal got the best of youngster Carlos Alcaraz in three wild sets. Nadal will battle Taylor Fritz for the title.

Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal, Indian Wells 2022 Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells in 2022 © Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic

ATP Indian Wells Masters 1000 | Results | Schedule

No matter the circumstances, Rafael Nadal just can’t lose in 2022. At least not yet. Nadal not only had to deal with a red-hot Carlos Alcaraz in the BNP Paribas Open semi-finals but also borderline unplayable wind gusts. But none of that ended up mattering, as the 35-year-old withstood everything that was thrown at him and outlasted Alcaraz 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 after three hours and 12 minutes on Saturday evening.

Alcaraz jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening set, but Nadal promptly reeled off four straight games to take control. The wind picked up in set two, and so did Alcaraz’s game — aside from his serve. In part due to the crazy conditions, there were five service breaks in a row. Three of those went to the world No. 19, who at 4-4 won a marathon seven-deuce game that featured a total of seven break points.

Alcaraz : “In the third set we played really good tennis”

That set the stage for a decider, in which the quality of tennis improved as the wind died down. A final turning point came with Nadal serving at 2-2, when he saved three more break points and managed to hold with some impeccable net play. Continuing to inch ahead in the set each time he served, the 21-time Grand Slam champion eventually broke Alcaraz at 4-3. That allowed Nadal to serve for the match, which he did successfully at love.

“The atmosphere was amazing,” Alcaraz commented. “In the third set we played really good tennis, I think both (of us). In the first set I had to be more calm; I played really nervous. But, yeah, I (will) learn from this. The next time I will play more calm, more [relaxed]. If you are playing with Rafa, you have to be calm — you have to think well in the tough moments. That’s what I learned in this match.”

“Crazy conditions in the second” (Nadal)

Still, Alcaraz played pretty much as well as he could — especially considering the conditions. And Nadal only had praise for his 18-year-old countryman.

“I think he started playing amazing; it was so difficult to stop him,” the world No. 4 said. “In the second the conditions became crazy; it was so difficult, everything. In the third I think I played much better; I tried to be more aggressive. I am super happy to be in the final; it means a lot to me.”

It probably means even more for his Sunday opponent. Next up for Nadal is California native Taylor Fritz, who will be playing in his first-ever Masters 1000 title match after beating Andrey Rublev 7-5, 6-4 in the semis.

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