Rafael Nadal fought against Carlos Alcaraz and the elements on Saturday, defeating his talented young Spanish compatriot 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to win the ATP Indian Wells Masters title with American Taylor Fritz.
Nadal, who won a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, improved to 20-0 in 2022.
The 35-year-old superstar was pushed all the way for three hours and 12 minutes with the aim of following in the footsteps of his childhood idol.
“A very tough afternoon against an amazing opponent,” Nadal said. “Mentally, I was there all the time. I fought during the match facing some very tough situations, I believed.
“Anything can happen, no? But I’ve reached the final.”
The array of shots and athleticism that had already stamped a star Alcaraz was on full display in a match in which the players in the second set were seen by strong winds, sending debris across the court and at one point the billing net again. : Forced to adjust.
His fearless start to the competition saw him take a sharp 2–0 lead – five of the astonishing 17 break points he faced in the set in the second game.
Nadal won the next four games and then dropped his serve again, but he took the set with another break in the 10th game.
Down 0-40, Alcarz delivered a drop shot winner, a backhand volley winner and a serve winner.
The forehand in the nets gave Nadal another chance, which the former world number one missed with a simple forehand. He made no mistake two points later, winning the set on his fifth occasion.
Alkaraj took the initiative again in the second set with a break to lead 3-2.
It started a run of five straight breaks of serve, the last being another marathon in which Nadal saved five break points and Alcaraz lost two game points before eventually being turned away.
Alcaraz, who won just three games in his first career-only meeting with Nadal at Madrid 10 months ago, then calmly served the set.
As the wind stopped again, the third set saw both players hitting the winners from every quarter of the court.
Nadal stepped up his attack after coming over the net in an attempt to end the rallies.
It was his forehand volley in the eighth game that gave Nadal a break and a 5-3 lead and he finished it with a love game.
“In the third match I think I played much better,” Nadal said. “When the wind stopped for a bit I thought I needed to play aggressive because if Carlos isn’t going for the shots and it’s going to be in his hands.”
– Fritz in first Masters final – Nadal won his only previous meeting with Fritz in straight sets, in the 2020 final in Acapulco.
The 24-year-old American, ranked 20th in the world, ended world number seven Andrey Rublev’s 13-match ATP winning streak 7-5, 6-4 in the second semi-final.
Fritz is the first American man to reach the Indian Wells final since John Isner in 2012 and will be competing to become the first American winner since Andre Agassi in 2001.
Fritz looks to reach his first Elite Masters 1000 final and a second career ATP title since his win at Eastbourne in 2019.
The Southern California native fired on all cylinders and took a 3-0 lead in just 11 minutes.
Firing winners from both wings and punishing Rublev’s second serve, Fritz had a 5–1 chance to go up, but Rublev managed to fight off three break points in a marathon game involving eight deuce.
As Fritz served for the set at 5-2, Rublev broke it with a stinging service return winner to put the set back on serve, but Fritz broke again in the 12th to take the set.
In desperation after an error-strewn set, Rublev repeatedly punched the head of his racket with his right hand, causing cuts on his knuckles, apparently causing his medical time out.
Rublev raised his game in the second set, but after failing to convert two break opportunities in the ninth game, Rublev gifted the American a match point when he sent an easy forehand volley. Fritz took full advantage with another crushing serve return winner.
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