With victory on Sunday in the Indian Wells final, Rafael Nadal can move back to joint top in the Masters 1000 title rankings. He would match Novak Djokovic’s 37 if he can beat Taylor Fritz, who is competing in his first at this level. He is heavily favoured to do so and move his record this year to 21-0, already the second best in history.
Fritz performed well at Indian Wells last year and has done even better this, improving on his 2021 semi-final with a 2022 final. He picked up his most impressive win of the fortnight in the last round, beating Andrey Rublev in straight sets 7-5 6-4. He had to dictate from the beginning forcing the Russian into some uncharacteristically sloppy points. “Today I definitely played my best match of the tournament so far. I was so much more aggressive from the ground and so much more solid [with] my groundstrokes, whereas [in] other matches I was maybe playing a bit safer,” Fritz said. “I really tried to take it to him and impose my game today. I did it well, so that helped a lot.”
Nadal was pushed to the limit both by the weather and an inspired Carlos Alcaraz, needing three hours to finally come out on top 6-4 4-6 6-3. The wind made it a wild and physical one with Nadal not having it all his own way. Alcaraz nearly doubled Nadal up on winners but as ever is so often against the top players, it was a few decisive points late on that determined the victor. Nadal had just one break point opportunity in the decider and would take it with a nice forehand-volley combo. “When the wind stopped a little bit, I thought I needed to play aggressive, because if not, Carlos was going to go for the shots and then it was going to be in his hands. I tried to play more aggressive, it worked well.” Nadal sad.
Fritz has proven he is ready to take a step up on the tour but Nadal will be an even tougher match in the rallies than Rublev. The lack of a day’s rest is a positive for the American who will be facing an opponent who is coming off a physical three hour match at the age of 35. With Nadal showing he is still comfortable against the heavier services in the early rounds, he should be able to take advantage of Fritz but the tiredness could play a factor if this one goes long.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets