There was talk Taylor Fritz would not even be able to play in the Indian Wells final due to a right ankle issue, but not only did the American show up, he held his nerves to take the title over Rafael Nadal 6-3, 7-6(5).
“I can’t even begin to describe how ridiculous it is that I was able to play how I could play today,” said Fritz. “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.”
With Nadal also battling a foot and a chest muscle injury — one he left the court for treatment and needed help from the trainer on court — it was Fritz coming out blazing just out to a double break lead to stun the pro-Nadal crowd.
“I tried my best. Of course, not been my day. But that happens. I have experience in all these situations. So in the moment, of course, it’s tough to play a final like this. Tried ’til the end. That’s it,” Nadal said. “Even I had my chances in the second set, I didn’t convert too many chances. That’s it. I think it’s a difficult match to analyze personally from my side because I was not able to do many things.”
Fritz was in complete control of Nadal thanks to his power, but Rafa started to get into a rhythm in the second. After visiting the trainer off court, Nadal returned a better player in the second, and we had a match.
Playing in his biggest final and playing in front of his home fans, Fritz, a native of California, Fritz overcome a break down to level, then got to match point on Nadal’s serve at 4-5 but was denied.
The nerves were getting to Taylor as the crowd noise increased. Fritz would pull ahead in the breaker before Nadal got back on top, then served for the breaker at 5-4, however the 3-time Indian Wells champion wouldn’t win another point.
“I’ve lost these matches against the big guys my whole life,” Fritz said after his first Big 3 win. “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 collects just his second ATP title after 2019 Eastbourne, and he’ll move to a career-high No. 13 on Monday. Fritz is also the first American to win the title since Andre Agassi in 2001. And like Nadal who had to escape early on against Sebastian Korda, Fritz had to win two final set breakers en route.
“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,'” added Fritz.
Nadal, whose win streak ends at 20, will now head back home and will have a month to prepare and recover for his beloved clay season.
“I had pain, honestly. I had problems breathing. I don’t know if it’s something on the rib, I don’t know yet. When I’m breathing, when I’m moving it’s like a needle all the time inside here. I get dizzy a little bit because it’s painful,” Nadal said. “It’s a kind of pain that limits me a lot. It’s not only about pain, I don’t feel very well because affects my breathing.”
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