Nine years later, Rafael Nadal will play the Indian Wells final again, a territory he has conquered three times (2007, 2009 and 2013) and where he only lost in the final episode of the tournament against Novak Djokovic (2011). Now he will face the American Taylor Fritz, who will try to take over from his compatriot Andre Agassi, the last local champion. He got it in 2001. The Spaniard will arrive at tonight’s match (23.00, #Vamos) riding a perfect and triumphant wave: 20 games, 20 wins; three trophies (Melbourne, Australian Open and Acapulco) and a significant jump in the ranking.
This Monday, once the champion has been decided and the ATP list is updated, the Spaniard (35 years old) will appear in the third step, behind Djokovic (34) and the Russian Daniil Medvedev (26), and unseating to German Alexander Zverev (24). The promotion responds to the fabulous quarter that he has completed, with an immaculate journey sweetened by the victory against Alcaraz – now, 16th in the classification – and that could still be better if he defeats Fritz today, Californian by birth, 24 years old, 20th in the world ; the first finalist of his country since John Isner fell in 2012 against the Swiss Roger Federer.
“It was my best match in the tournament, this victory means a lot to me”, Nadal introduced in the conference room. “I enjoy playing with the wind, because it’s about finding solutions all the time, but I don’t enjoy when we have to stop all the time. The problem is that there is no rule that forces the game to be suspended”, he referred to the difficult conditions, then downplaying the importance of the chest pain – “I must have made a bad gesture, but I think it is nothing important” – and praising the high level offered by Carlos Alcaraz, who is almost twice his age.
“I went out on the track with the utmost respect, it has all the blows,” he said. “He is very aggressive and at the same time defends incredible balls. His ball quality is very high. In terms of level, my feeling is that of having played against a top-8. He reminds me of me in the energy, passion and determination he has to become a great champion”, expressed the man from Manacor, who if he wins in Indian Wells he will equal the record of the 37 Masters 1000 won by Djokovic; the last of them, in Paris-Bercy, while his last success dates back to Rome, in May.
“It has been close and I am happy”, said Alcaraz, who is the seventh best player of the season and, therefore, would have a hypothetical access to the Turin Masters Cup. He summarizes this first part of the year in 12 wins and only two losses, against Matteo Berrettini in Australia and this one against Nadal. “I have been very close. In some moments I thought I could beat him, but Rafa has a thousand lives”, he continued; “In the first set I played against him and myself, but in the second and third I wanted to show my level to beat him or stay close”.
Alcaraz says that he is maturing by leaps and bounds and that he already belongs to the first stratum of players. “Now I know how to deal with these types of players. I have played many matches against great players and I feel I have the level. Last year there were many firsts, but now I know how to control my emotions. I have played against great players and in great stadiums. I think I’m going to play against Rafa and the best more times this year”, resolved the young man from Palmar, who will compete in Miami next week, where Nadal will not be.
Before participating in Indian Wells, the Mallorcan announced that he prefers to dose himself with a view to the gravel tour, which will begin on April 10 in Monte Carlo. He before him has before him another opportunity to swell his locker. Opposite will be Fritz, who only has one title (Eastbourne, grass, 2019) and has played five finals; one of them, the most important, two years ago, precisely against Nadal in Acapulco. “I felt helpless, but now I have learned,” said the American.
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