Taylor Fritz has become the first American man since Andre Agassi in 2001 to win the title at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the BNP Paribas Open. He is also the youngest male winner since Novak Djokovic in 2011 to claim the championship.
In a remarkable match he has defeated Rafa Nadal 6-3, 7-6 but it was a final that seemed destined not to happen. The day before very late in his semi-final against Andrey Rublev, Fritz turned his right ankle. He thought it would be fine in time for the final but when he went on court for a practice session he screamed out in pain when he put pressure on the foot.
Fritz was near to tears. Every move he made resulted in anguish and he was convinced he was not going to play his first Masters 1000 final. He dramatically cut short his practice session and saw the medical staff. They numbed the area, and he later went out to practice again and was convinced he could play. He later admitted he felt no pain during the match.
“I started hitting. I realized, like, wow, maybe I can actually play,” Fritz said. “I had this, like, feeling of, like, hope. A lot of members of my team wanted me to not play the match. I'm never going to let them forget that because I went on the court and it was a complete non-issue, didn't feel it at all, didn't hinder me at all.
“I know Rafa was dealing with some things as well. I can't imagine how banged up someone's body must be after 20-something straight matches, playing as much as he has. I'm just so lucky I was able to go out there, play, play really well, and not be hindered at all by something that I thought was going to keep me from even going on the court.
“It’s like after the match I kept saying, no way, no way, I can't believe it's real. I signed the camera, I just put question marks. Stunned. Couldn't even believe it. Seriously, this is seriously like a childhood dream come true, like a wild dream you never expect to actually happen. It really hasn't even sunk in.”
Fritz opened a 4-0 before Nadal was on the scoreboard. Certainly, Nadal was working his way in but he was struggling with his own injury issues. He had hurt himself also in his semi; it was around the ribs and he was finding it hard to breathe and he was feeling sharp pain. But not much stops Rafa and he worked so hard to stay in touch with Fritz.
He was hoping to finish his hard-court tournaments with a perfect record having gone into the final with a 20-0 win-loss record.
“I try my best. Of course, have not been my day. But that happens. I have experience in all these situations,” Nadal said. “So is the moment, of course, is tough to play a final like this.
Yeah, tried till the end. That's it. Even I had my chances in the second set, I didn't convert too many chances. I think it's a difficult match to analyse personally from my side because I was not able to do many things. But yeah, it's a great victory for him. First Masters 1000. Big day for him. I just hope he enjoy it. I wish him all the very best.
“Oh, I had pain, honestly. As I said, I have problem to breathe. I don't know if it's something on the rib, I don't know yet. When I'm breathing, when I'm moving it's like a needle all the time inside here, no? I get dizzy a little bit because it's painful. It's a kind of pain that limit me a lot. Is not only about pain, I don't feel very well because affects to my breathe.
“More than sad for the lose, something that I accepted immediately, and even before the match ends, it's more about that I am suffering a little bit, honestly.”
When asked what the next step was for him, Fritz said he did not want to get ahead of himself and was going to take things one step at a time. His goal for the last couple months has been top 10 and now he is knocking on the door.
“This obviously helps a lot,” he said. “Obviously I'd love to go way higher than that and achieve way more than that. Like I said, take it one step at a time, not get ahead of myself, it's just one tournament. Go back to work, never be satisfied with the good results. Just keep wanting more. Goal is still to get to the top 10, then after that we'll re-evaluate. Maybe top five will be after that.”
The doubles final was won by John Isner and Jack Sock.; they beat Edouard Roger Vasselin and Santiago Gonzalez.