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Taylor Fritz Defeats Nadal at Indian Wells, Fulfilling a Prediction


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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Back within the day, Taylor Fritz and his father Guy would drive north on the highway from San Diego, come over the Santa Rosa Mountains and navigate the switchback turns right down to the Coachella Valley, where the world’s best tennis players gather every March in Indian Wells.

Fritz, a talented junior, was just one other boy patrolling the courts and looking for fun and autographs, including Rafael Nadal’s, but Fritz’s father told him something extraordinary.

“He told me that I used to be going to win this tournament in the future,” Fritz said.

On Sunday, Fritz, now 24, did just that: holding off a diminished but still dangerous Nadal, one in every of the best players in tennis’s long history.

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“That is seriously like a childhood dream come true,” said Fritz, fighting off tears after fighting off Nadal, 6-3, 7-6 (5). “Like a wild dream you never expect to really occur.”

Guy Fritz, who peaked at No. 301 within the ATP rankings in 1979, long believed in his son, who has reached No. 13 with this victory. But it surely has taken Taylor until now to develop the religion and the forehand to take out a champion like Nadal at such a tournament.

It’s a Masters 1000 event, a step below a Grand Slam tournament however the top-tier category on the regular tour, and Indian Wells has turn into a signature stop. It has vast grounds, excellent facilities and robust attendance even when this 12 months’s total of 329,764 fans, with vaccination required for spectators, was no match for the prepandemic figure of 475,372 in 2019.

The event also has strong backing from its billionaire owner Larry Ellison, who was sitting within the front row of his box on Sunday to look at Nadal, his friend and regular houseguest, try to stay unbeaten in 2022.

Like Roger Federer, Nadal has endured and impressed long enough to transcend nationality. A Spaniard, Nadal has been on tour for nearly 20 years and won his record twenty first Grand Slam singles title at this 12 months’s Australian Open.

Fritz, who grew up in nearby San Diego County within the elite enclave of Rancho Santa Fe, considers the BNP Paribas Open his “home tournament,” and though he did get considerable support, it sometimes felt like he was playing an away game against Nadal.

But Fritz wouldn’t be denied as he finished off the victory on his second match point, ripping a forehand approach shot down the road that the lunging Nadal couldn’t handle.

“No way!” the wide-eyed Fritz shouted repeatedly.

A title definitely had looked unlikely just a few hours earlier when Fritz walked onto the identical court and shouted in anguish as he attempted to push off on his right foot during a warm-up session that lasted only just a few minutes. “Like, the worst pain possible,” he said. “I used to be really upset, mainly almost crying, because I assumed I used to be going to must pull out.”

After numbing the ankle with painkilling treatment, he went back out to hit on an outdoor court and felt higher. But his coaches, Michael Russell and Paul Annacone, and fitness trainer, Wolfgang Oswald, all advised against him playing in the ultimate, concerned Fritz might do longer-term damage to the ankle he had twisted within the semifinal on Saturday.

Fritz ignored the recommendation. “I feel bad for those guys: I’m so stubborn,” he said. “I went on the market, and I seriously played the match with zero pain.”

Still, he has scheduled for Monday a magnetic resonance imaging scan on his ankle. It looks far more unlikely that he’ll play on this week’s Miami Open than it does for Iga Swiatek, who won the ladies’s singles title earlier on Sunday.

Swiatek, the 20-year-old Polish star who’s as thoughtful as she is powerful, defeated Maria Sakkari, 6-4, 6-1, in what was a match for the title but in addition for the No. 2 rating.

Swiatek, now ranked only behind Ashleigh Barty, was the more reliable force within the gusting wind along with her heavy groundstrokes, particularly the forehand that she hits with extreme topspin, like her role model Nadal. Until this 12 months, her biggest titles have come on clay: above all of the 2020 French Open title that she won at age 19 without dropping a set.

But Swiatek clearly has the skill and can to be No. 1 and an all-surface threat. After winning the WTA 1000 in Doha, Qatar on a hardcourt, she ran her winning streak to 11 matches by winning for the primary time in Indian Wells.

This tournament has been the positioning of huge breakthroughs in recent times: Naomi Osaka won in 2018 and went on to assert her first major at that 12 months’s U.S. Open; Bianca Andreescu did the identical double in 2019.

Fritz, who had never reached a Masters 1000 final until this tournament, required third-set tiebreakers to get past Jaume Munar and Alex de Minaur and three sets to defeat Miomir Kecmanovic before finding his form and range against Andrey Rublev on Saturday.

“His victory of yesterday is far greater than his victory of today, because he had a much tougher opponent,” Nadal said of the Rublev match.

Nadal’s glum comment was a reference to the pain that he began feeling in his chest late in his windblown semifinal victory over Spanish compatriot Carlos Alcaraz on Saturday.

Nadal needed to stretch and strain to regulate his shots to those unpredictable conditions, and though he said he had not yet received a transparent diagnosis, it was possible that, in contorting himself within the wind against Alcaraz, he had strained a pectoral muscle or intercostal muscle near his ribs.

“Once I attempt to breathe, it’s painful and really uncomfortable,” said Nadal, now 20-1 in 2022. “But that’s it no? It’s not the moment to discuss that, truthfully. Even when it’s obvious that I used to be not in a position to do the conventional things today. That’s it. It’s a final. I attempted. I lost against an awesome player.”

Fritz’s parents were touring professionals who helped to shape his game when he was young. His mother Kathy May was ranked as high as No. 10 in singles in 1977 on the WTA Tour and reached three Grand Slam singles quarterfinals during her profession.

After her son’s victory, May spoke courtside with Martina Navratilova, whom May once defeated on tour, and later posed for photographs on court along with her son.

Fritz was married at 18 and is the daddy of a 5-year-old son Jordan but is now divorced and traveling together with his girlfriend Morgan Riddle.

“She’s so committed to creating sure I’m doing all the fitting things, like I’m going to bed on time,” he said in an interview. “It’s just someone who’s holding me accountable, who also wants the identical things I need, and it’s amazing simply to have someone who cares and who can assist me do the fitting things.”

What Fritz wants this season is a spot in the highest 10. He was ranked No. 39 in early October but said he tweaked his forehand technique after watching footage of a junior match he played against Rublev. “We were just absolutely crushing the ball,” Fritz said. “I watched exactly how I used to be hitting my forehand and just tried to repeat it as much as possible.”

He reached the semifinals in Indian Wells last 12 months when the tournament was delayed and played in October, and he has been defeating top 20 players with regularity since then. He’s the primary American to win the singles in Indian Wells since 2001 when Andre Agassi won the lads’s title and Serena Williams won the ladies’s title.

Fritz was 3 on the time. But Indian Wells soon became an everyday a part of his life and when he returned this 12 months, he looked up at the large photograph of reigning men’s champion Cameron Norrie on the wall of the players’ lounge and imagined his own photo taking its place.

“All week, I used to be like, it could be so cool for that to be my picture,” he said.

Mission achieved, and a long-ago prediction has also come true.

“He was just really, really happy with me,” Fritz said of his father, tearing up as he smiled. “It’s really tough to get a compliment out of him.”

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