Last month at the US Open, pro tennis saw arguably the most unlikely women’s Grand Slam final as Emma Raducanu shocked the tennis world winning in New York over Leylah Fernandez.
Now, the men have what is maybe the most surprising Masters final in its history as Nikolaz Basilashvili will meet Cameron Norrie for the Indian Wells title on Sunday.
The 36th-ranked Basilashvili saved two break points while serving for the match in a 7-6(3), 6-3 win over the California native Taylor Fritz.
“It means a lot, especially at Indian Wells, which people call it like a fifth Grand Slam,” Basilashvili said. “To get through so many matches is very important.
“I’m at the top of my game now and feeling the best.”
The Georgian — the first from his country to make a Masters final — has wins this week over Karen Khachanov and Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to today’s meeting with Fritz.
“I’m really happy,” he said. “I think I played pretty good tennis. In my opinion, Taylor made me play a lot of balls. I had to actually play very good tennis from the baseline to beat him.
But in general I’m happy that I was very relaxed in important moments and I could execute my shots.”
Fritz was appearing in his first Masters semifinal, and he earned his first Top 5 win over Alexander Zverev in the quarters.
“I had a lot of chances. It’s tough because I got all those chances and break points kind of from being solid and him missing,” Fritz said after. “It’s kind of tough on those break points then to just pull the trigger on balls that I didn’t really feel comfortable with. I didn’t feel like I had good looks to kind of pull it on a big point.
“His backhand, he definitely hits harder than anybody on tour. The way that it comes through the court so hard and flat and deep, nothing you can really do. Usually I’m pretty good at fighting off the balls at the backhand. It was a bit tough today. He hit a lot of good backhand lines.”
Earlier, Norrie reached his biggest final topping Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 6-4.
“It was the biggest match of my career, following on from yesterday, which was the biggest match,” Norrie said. “There was even more pressure today. I came out and played really physical. Grigor was maybe a little tired from the other matches, but he fought hard and made it physical at the start of the second set, which wasn’t easy.”
Norrie is into his seventh career final, sixth of 2021. He has one title coming in Los Cabos over the summer.
“I’ve been playing a lot of big matches this year, which has helped. I feel like I am used to the big moments and the big matches,” Norrie said. “I’m feeling more and more comfortable and I feel like I am playing on my terms in key moments.”
Norrie beat Basilashvili in their only meeting in Rotterdam this year -6-0, 6-3.
“He’s very uncomfortable to play and he’s in really good shape right now. He’s playing a very interesting game.”
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