Ailing Rafael Nadal’s 20-match win streak ends in loss to Taylor Fritz

INDIAN WELLSCalif. — American Taylor Fritz upset an ailing Rafael Nadel 6-3, 7-6 (5) Sunday to win the BNP Paribas Open and snap the 21-time major champion’s 20-match winning streak this year.

“It’s an honor to even be on the same court as this guy,” Fritz told the crowd. “I grew up watching this guy win everything.”

Nadal‘s usual fighting spirit was on full display, but he came into the match bothered by painful breathing that he first experienced in a three-set semifinal win Saturday.

He took two medical timeouts during the final. The first one came after he lost the first set. Nadal went inside with a trainer after tapping his upper left chest. He got treatment on court after falling behind 5-4 in the second set.

“When I try to breathe, it’s painful and it’s very uncomfortable. It’s like a needle all the time inside. I get dizzy a little bit because it’s painful. It’s a kind of pain that limit me a lot,” said Nadalwho turns 36 in June.

“The thing that worries me now, it’s about what’s going on there, what I have to do now to recover and how long going to take.”

Fritz was dealing with his own health issue.

He tweaked his ankle late in his semifinal win over No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev on Saturday, then re-aggravated it during his warmup Sunday. Blue medical tape could be seen above his high sock.

Fritz raced to a 5-1 lead in the first set, breaking Nadal twice. Nadal got a break back in closing to 5-3, but his backhand error gave Fritz another break and the set.

Nadal fought off a match point on his serve with a forehand winner to tie the second set 5-all. He had two break points on Fritz’s serve in the next game, but the American held for a 6-5 lead. Nadal held to force the tiebreaker.

Nadal sent two straight forehands well wide to set up Fritz’s second match point. Another Nadal error sent the 24-year-old American to the biggest victory of his career not far from where he grew up near San Diego. Fritz’s parents, Guy Fritz and Kathy May, are former tour players.

“Winning this tournament is just one of those crazy childhood dreams that you don’t think is ever going to happen,” he said on court.

Fritz dropped his racket and collapsed on his back. He got up smiling with a look of disbelief on his face. He became the first American man to win Indian Wells since Andre Agassi in 2001.

Fritz is projected to rise from No. 20 to a career-high 13th in Monday’s ATP Tour rankings and will become the top-ranked American player. Nadal moves up to No. 3.

In an error-filled women’s final, Iga Swiatek defeated Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-1. The 20-year-old Polish player and Fritz earned $1.2 million each for their victories.

Nadal‘s 20-0 start to the year included the Australian Open, his 21st major championship that broke a tie with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. He also won titles in Melbourne and Acapulco.

“Of course, the last two months have been amazing, unforgettable, very emotional,” Nadal said. “I enjoy things that I never thought I could live again a few months ago.”

Nadal had already decided to skip next week’s tournament in Miami and head home to Spain to prepare for the French Open that begins May 22.

Swiatek will rise from fourth to a career-best No. 2 in the world in Monday’s WTA Tour rankings, trailing top-ranked Ash Barty, who skipped Indian Wells.

“Right now, it’s too surreal to describe it, honestly,” Swiatek said. “But for sure I want to go higher because I feel like getting the No. 1 is closer and closer.”

Sakkari will move from sixth to No. 3, the rising Greek star’s highest ranking yet. She equals countryman Stefanos Tsitsipas, who reached No. 3 in the ATP Tour rankings.

Swiatek lost each of the first three times she played Sakkari, all last year. Last month, the 20-year-old Polish player beat Sakkari in the semifinals at Doha and went on to win the title.

Swiatek has five career titles, including the 2020 French Open. She’s 5-0 in her last five finals, losing only a combined 16 games. Her new ranking equals the highest ever by a Polish player, matching Agnieszka Radwanska.

Gusty winds affected serves and shots by both players, who had seven double faults each. There were seven service breaks in the first set alone, with Swiatek holding twice. Sakkari held once to tie the set, 4-all.

Swiatek improved her record to a WTA Tour-leading 20-3 this year, including 11 matches in a row.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.



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