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Monday, April 15 2024

Taylor Fritz stuns Rafa Nadal to clinch Indian Wells title

Taylor Fritz stuns Rafa Nadal to clinch Indian Wells title
Photo Credit : IANS

Indian Wells: American Taylor Fritz claimed the biggest paycheque of his tennis career, winning his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title by defeating Spanish stalwart Rafael Nadal 6-3, 7-6(5) in the BNP Paribas Open final on Monday (IST).

It was 21-time Grand Slam-winner Nadal’s first defeat of the 2022 season, while it was the biggest career win for the 24-year-old Taylor Fritz, who lifted his second ATP Tour trophy.

The San Diego native, who nearly pulled out ahead of match with an ankle injury, launched a full-scale attack on the 35-year-old Nadal to deny him a record-tying 37th ATP Masters 1000 title and end his personal-best 20-match win streak this season.

After twisting his ankle in the semifinal win over Russian Andrey Rublev on Saturday, Taylor Fritz further aggravated the problem in his warm-up ahead of the final.

“I can’t even begin to describe how ridiculous it is that I was able to play how I could play today,” Fritz was quoted as saying by “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.”

In fact, Fritz’s team advised him not to play the final as he risked doing irreparable damage to the ankle.

His coach Paul Annacone told Tennis Channel that, “All three of his team, me, Mike Russell and (fitness trainer) Wolfgang Oswald all said ‘Do not play this match’. He said ‘I am playing. I can do this. I want to get out on the court with Rafa and see if I can overcome.’ ”

After a quick start from the American, it was Nadal who was doing all the catching up. Taylor Fritz raced to a 4-0 lead in the opener before Nadal took a medical timeout in between sets.

After leaving the court for treatment in between sets, the Spaniard edged in front in the second with the first break. But Fritz broke back immediately and then survived four break points to lead 3-2.

Taylor Fritz, playing in his first Masters 1000 final, became the first American men’s champion at Indian Wells since Andre Agassi in 2001 and the youngest Indian Wells men’s champ since Serbian Novak Djokovic in 2011.

“I’m going to have to hold back tears for every single interview I do, every single on-court speech,” Fritz added. “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.’ ”

The victory equals Fritz’s best career win in terms of ATP Rankings, matching his result over then-World No. 4 Alexander Zverev in the 2021 Indian Wells quarters. But this was Fritz’s first win in nine matches against the ‘Big Three’ — Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic –, levelling his ATP head-to-head record at 1-1 against Nadal.

“I’ve lost these matches against the big guys my whole life,” he said. “It’s always felt like they were just unbeatable. So to do it on the biggest stage, there’s no other way. To win a big title, you’ve got to beat the best. He was unbeaten this year.

“I hope he’s OK. Obviously there’s some stuff going on. I can’t imagine how the body is feeling after 20-something matches.”

Fritz will rise to a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 13 following the win, taking the title of No. 1 American back from Reilly Opelka. Nadal will move up one spot to No. 3.

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