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Fritz's hand chases Nadal's first defeat in 2022 to win Indian Wells: "I can't breathe properly" |  ATP Indian Wells (USA)

Fritz’s hand chases Nadal’s first defeat in 2022 to win Indian Wells: “I can’t breathe properly” | ATP Indian Wells (USA)

It happened: Rafael Nadal lost his 21st game of 2022 after 3 consecutive wins in the tournament. The 35-year-old Spaniard was clearly not in good physical shape, and 24-year-old American Taylor Fritz won the final at Indian Wells 6-3, 7-6. For Fritz, this is the best victory of his career.

Nadal, ranked 4 in the world, is undefeated yet this year. He often crawls through the eye of a needle, in the semi-finals against young compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, but the Australian Open winner’s luck ran out.

He stated after the final that at the end of the match against Alcaraz he had severe pain in the upper left part of his body. “Breathing takes effort. I don’t know what’s right, but it’s very painful and uncomfortable. It feels like a needle sticks out every time.”

The Spaniard, who has already demanded a lot of his body in this tournament and this year, was clearly not at his best: he immediately lost serve, even Fritz went 4-0, 5-1. Nadal took a painkiller and could threaten (5-3), but a new break means Fritz won a set after just 40 minutes.

Nadal received medical treatment and the warrior was knocked out again in the second set. He broke up quickly, but immediately got some rest. Matches became more interesting, as Fritz knocked out 5 balls, but left the match point at 5-4 on the serve of the Spaniard, who had just had his back rubbed.

Nadal still had chances to skip Fritz’s serve, but he became the first American to survive an Indian Wells final since John Isner in 2012. The tiebreak had to decide.

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In it, Nadal was allowed to tackle 5-4 in his favour, but lost those two balls. Fritz finished the ball in the second game on his serve (7/5).

Nadal: “As if a needle was sinking me every time”, Fritz: “Think of giving up the final”

The 21-time Grand Slam winner could not claim a fourth title in 2022 and the fourth overall victory at Indian Wells after Melbourne, Australian Open and Acapulco. “I did my best for two weeks, but this time it was not possible to win, although I struggled to the end.”

This time it wasn’t his left foot that was playing tricks, the foot he underwent surgery last year, but a sharp pain in the left side of his upper body. “I’m having trouble breathing. Obviously I wasn’t able to do things normally today. I tried, but I lost to a good player.”

Nadal congratulated Fritz: “This is not the time to talk about me. It’s his day.”

Fritz is the first American win at Indian Wells since Andre Agassi in 2001. His only previous title on grass was in 2019 at Eastbourne. And I think he hardly ever got into the California final.

Fritz also admitted after the final that he did not come out unscathed in the semi-final against Russian Andrei Rublev. “I eventually twisted my right ankle. I was in pain, but it felt great when I woke up in the morning.”

“But when I had to put in some pressure to warm up in the morning, I was in incredible pain. I was in all over and wanted to cry because I thought I had to give in. The doctor calmed the pain and after some knocked over the balls I felt like it was possible. In the end, it didn’t bother me. That’s in the match.”

He can fulfill his childhood dream. “I still can’t believe it,” he said, with tears in his eyes. “And that’s against Nadal, that’s the icing on the cake. I grew up with Nadal and Federer, who both won everything. That’s crazy.”

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