It was Taylor Fritz, lo and behold, who set the limit for Rafael Nadal’s winning sequence this season. The American, 24 years old and 20th in the world, interrupted the triumphal march of the Spaniard (6-3 and 7-6(5), in 2h 06m) and was crowned in Indian Wells, adding a historic notch to a career with a discreet profile. . After chaining 20 consecutive wins and three trophies since the beginning of the year, the Mallorcan (35 years old) suffered from the wear and tear of the semifinal against Carlos Alcaraz the previous day and gave in a final that he played diminished, chest pain. He went all out and beat the drums for the heroic at the end, but this time there was no miracle.
Fritz, who also jumped onto the track injured, his right ankle in his case, raised the first Masters 1000 of the course and picked up the distant witness of his compatriot Andre Agassi, champion of the tournament in 2001. Injured by some discomfort that he dragged from the crossing in the semifinals against Andrey Rublev, the one from San Diego suspended the morning warm-up and was in doubt until the last minute, but he finally played and won.
His title will be accompanied by the illustrious achievement of having been the man who interrupted Nadal’s best annual takeoff, who aspired to his fourth title in the Coachella Valley and his 37th laurel in the category; Had he succeeded, he would have matched Novak Djokovic, who still holds the record and will return to competition in Monte Carlo on April 10, on the same stage where the Balearic will resume activity, absent this week in Miami with the aim of dose up
Nadal bit his lip in rage. He looked at his bench, saying everything without saying anything: he simply couldn’t. His technician, Francis Roig, responded with a grimace of resignation and concern. From the beginning, an inanimate version was perceived far removed from the usual one, limited in mobility, without spark or blow; the Balearic refugee in the cave and settling for the return, without the intention of doing damage in the ball or the ability to release his arm, much less give the characteristic lashes of him with the drive. Neither burning nor energy. A Nadal without verve, in slow motion. Rare, rare. The problem, his face conveyed, went far beyond the scoreboard.
In a flash, Fritz opened the gap and was four games above, incredulous the North American and also the stands. Too easy to be true, all too simple. Nadal does not usually give anything away, but the physical toll of the effort made the day before against Alcaraz prevented him from fighting. He first ingested an anti-inflammatory pill and at one point, when he was selecting the balls to serve, he reached for his pectoral. He already had to be treated in the final stretch of the duel against the Murcian and when Fritz had already scratched him three breaks and he had won the first set, with very little, he went to the locker room accompanied by the physio.
Until then, an ordeal. Impotence. Nadal was not Nadal. The American distanced himself with his hands and every time he had to turn his torso to make the shot, either on one side or the other, his chest suffered. The hit, therefore, was limited and the speed of the service decreased considerably. At least he found some medical relief during the break and upon his return to the track offered more resistance. He clung to the game tooth and nail, with that faith nadaliana who has lifted him up so many times, and true to himself, he discussed the midterm as much as he could and more, as far as his body allowed.
More recognizable, although far from the dominating Nadal, he managed to sink his teeth into Fritz in the third game of the continuation, although the American’s response was immediate, break to break. If the previous day he had pulled ex officio to contain Alcaraz, this time he stayed afloat based on pride. However, after a couple of break chances slipped away at 4-4, he slammed a forehand single into the net and then expelled a mouthful of pain, numb and stiff. Still, he led Fritz to the thinking corner. He first saved a match point and immediately earned a couple of chances to break and get ahead, but the American held his own.
Fritz did not fall into the trap, he put out the fire and was then subjected by the Mallorcan to a higher stress test in the tie-breaker. Nadal made one last attempt, once again invoking the epic and in search of his moment, Final Outburst: from 0-2 to 4-3. But in the end he bowed. This time he didn’t reach her. That’s where the streak ended, set at 20 successive wins from January to now.
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