Nobody was expecting Taylor Fritz to win his first Masters 1000 tournament, especially when his opponent was Rafael Nadal. Nadal up until the final had a perfect 20-0 record on the year, had won three titles and won a historic 21st Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open.
Nothing seemed to suggest that Fritz would stop Nadal from getting to 21-0 and a record tying 37th Masters 1000 title. Things looked even worse for Fritz as footage emerged hours before the final of him collapsing and barely being able to stand during practice. The doctors advised Fritz to forfeit the match but Fritz refused to give up the opportunity to play the biggest match of his life.
Many, including myself, were expecting a routine win from Nadal. The first game proved that it would be anything but. From the very beginning, it was clear that something was not right with Nadal. In his previous round against Carlos Alcaraz, Nadal had called the trainer to work on his ribs and back. It did not seem major at the time, but obviously the pain was still bothering the Spaniard.
Fritz, sensing that Nadal’s movements were compromised, used his powerful forehand and angling backhands off the court to build a 5-1 lead in the first set. He was able to close out the first set 6-3.
Nadal called for the trainer and apparently was worked on in the locker room and given pain killers for his injury. The medicine seemed to kick in and Nadal got his first lead when he broke Fritz for 2-1 in the second set.
Fritz immediately dug in to get the break back and kept his nose in front for the rest of the set. Leading 5-4, Fritz had a match point that Nadal saved. Nadal ended up leveling the set and having two break chances of his own in the next game. Fritz again was able to shake off the unforced errors and dig out of the game for 6-5.
Eventually the set went to a tiebreak and the score stayed close in the beginning. It was Nadal that had a chance to set up two set points but he missed an uncharacteristic swinging volley. Fritz settled down and won the next two points to seal the victory at 7-6 (5) for his biggest title and became the first American since Andre Agassi to win the event.
For Nadal it was very disappointing because injuries have plagued his whole career and it was tough to see him hampered again in an important match. An MRI later revealed that Nadal had a cracked rib and will miss four to six weeks.
For Fritz it was a proud moment as he did well to hold his nerve in the big moments and become the first young American to break through at a big event. Hopefully, for Fritz he will be able to continue playing well and continue to make it deep in tournaments like Indian Wells.