Sunday saw an upset at the ATP Indian Wells Finals, as Rafael Nadal’s 21 match unbeaten start to 2022 was ended by locally based Taylor Fritz. Starting as the 4.20 underdog, this result was all the more remarkable considering Fritz came close to withdrawing before the match due to a persistent and painful ankle issue.
However, on the other side of the net, this certainly wasn’t a peak form Nadal taking to the Plexipave surface, with the Spaniard plagued by a restrictive breathing problem throughout. And there can be little doubt that the issue was taking its toll, with the movement around the court of the three-time Indian Wells champ noticeably a notch below his usual high standard.
In a match strewn with errors from both players, it was ultimately Fritz who held it together when it mattered most, winning 69% of his 1st serve points and taking advantage of 4 of 9 break points to come out on top 6-3 7-6 (5). Fritz sealing the deal when coming in behind a solid serve to slam a forehand to the right corner which Nadal was unable to get back – the American then collapsing to the court as the reality of the biggest success of his career hit home.
“This is just one of those childhood dreams you think would never come true,” was the verdict of the California native. Nadal meanwhile was circumspect regarding both the defeat and his ailment, stating, “Now is the moment to try to solve this problem as soon as possible, try to start on clay”.
That start however has now been delayed significantly. Upon returning to Spain, the source of Nadal’s breathing issue was discovered to be a stress fracture to one of his ribs. Not serious as far as tennis injuries go, but still enough to keep him out for an expected period of between four and six weeks. Already scheduled to miss Miami this week, that time frame also now rules him out of the clay court events at Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Rafa will however be hoping to be back to make a run at a 14th French Open title, with that event commencing on 22nd May. The bookmakers still seem to like his chances of regaining his crown anyway, with the king of Roland Garros the clear favourite with the majority of companies on this list of French open new betting sites.
Overall, this feels like a real breakout success for 24-year-old Fritz who became the youngest player to win the men’s singles title here since Novak Djokovic in 2011 and the youngest American to lift the trophy since Michael Chang back in 1996. With one significant step taken, it would be no surprise to see the improving right hander make his presence felt in the majors, with his previous best having come in a fourth-round appearance at this year’s Australian Open.
A double blow for Nadal then, but that shouldn’t detract too much from what has been a stellar start to the year for “El Nino”, who now sits in third spot in the ATP rankings. Fritz meanwhile is certainly trending upwards and rises to a career high eighth spot.