The battle of the ages turned out to be a match for the ages as Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz played the longest recorded Indian Wells semifinal at 3 hours, 12 minutes as Rafa came out on top 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
The much-anticipated showdown between the Spaniards saw Alcaraz break right away for a 2-0 lead, but Nadal took the next four games.
Another break would give Nadal the set, but the former No. 1 was just 3-for-17 on break chances in the first.
The winds whipped up in the second and at 4-all in a long game Nadal couldn’t find the court and Alcaraz took advantage sending an overhead out of Nadal’s reach for the break.
The third looked more like the first with the wind settling a little, and Nadal dug in and outslugged the 18-year-old finally breaking to go 5-3.
“I took it like another semifinal match. He’s not a young player that is 100 in the world and is coming. He is a top player already, so I treated it like that, playing against one of the best players in the world,” Nadal said. “It doesn’t matter if he’s young or not, he’s a great guy, an amazing player and he has a fantastic future. I treated it like this, just tried to go on court, try my best and accept all the challenges. I am through and it was a very important victory for me.”
Nadal was thankful the win eased in the third set.
“The wind slowed down a little bit, and then I knew I needed to do something because in the second, everything was so difficult. If I went to the net, then it was so difficult to manage with the volleys,” Nadal said. “When the wind stopped a little bit, I thought I needed to play aggressive, because if not, Carlos was going to go for the shots and then it was going to be in his hands. I tried to play more aggressive, it worked well.”
Nadal, who nearly lost to Sebastian Korda in his opener, has now won 20 straight matches.
“I think he started playing amazing. I was playing well at the beginning, it was just so difficult to stop him with his amazing shots. But then I think after first 15 minutes of the match, I can’t say I was under control, because it’s impossible to be under control against a player like him,” Nadal said. “Then I made a couple mistakes there and then the set complicated.
“But in the second, the conditions became crazy, honestly. It’s not funny playing this wind. Even if it’s sometimes a challenge, I can enjoy that. But in terms of tennis, it’s okay. In terms of stopping all the time because the net, was not good.”
The young Alcaraz was playing in his first Masters semifinal.
Nadal will be the big favorite for a 4th Indian Wells title, 37th Masters, 92nd career title and 26th on hard courts against American Taylor Fritz.
Fritz reached the biggest final of his career stopping the run of Andrey Rublev 7-5, 6-4.
“It’s just unreal, really. It doesn’t even seem real. I’m just trying to take in the moment, regroup and come back tomorrow for the final,” Fritz said in his on-court interview. “But it’s a dream come true.”
Fritz was appearing in his second straight Indian Wells semifinal, Rublev his first, and it the American who drew first blood building a 4-1 lead.
Rublev would strike back to level but was broken again to drop set set, drawing literal blood this time as the Russian smashed his fingers against the strings.
In the second, Fritz avoided break points at 4-all and then broke a despondent Rublev for one of his biggest career wins.
“It’s amazing. Just the support I got today, the crowd was so amazing and they really pushed me on,” said the California native Fritz.
“Today I definitely played my best match of the tournament so far. I was so much more aggressive from the ground and so much more solid [with] my groundstrokes, whereas other matches I was maybe playing a bit safer,” he said. “I really tried to take it to him and impose my game today. I did it well, so that helped a lot.”
Rublev had won his last 13 matches, and now he’ll try to break Nadal’s streak.
Nadal will bid to become the oldest champion in tournament history, besting a then-35 Roger Federer’s 2017 title while Fritz bids to become the first American man to claim title since Andre Agassi in 2001.
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March 20th, 2022 at 12:21 pm