The first Masters 1000 champion of the year will be crowned on Sunday evening when Rafael Nadal takes on the home man Taylor Fritz in the final of the BNP Paribas Open in the conclusion to the ATP Indian Wells event.
We have had a great week and at the end of it Nadal will either continue his undefeated start to the 2022 season or Fritz will pick up the first Masters 1000 title of his career in front of what is likely to be a passionate home crowd.
The week began with Rafael Nadal speaking of a debilitating foot injury and we have seen the evidence of that throughout the tournament but it hasn’t stopped the Spanish legend from fighting his way through to this final. His run has largely mirrored the way he went and won the Australian Open with him having to come through a number of tough encounters along the way before he pulled out his best in the last match to win the crown.
Nadal has struggled on serve this week. He has served a number of double faults with his foot causing him some discomfort but the one thing he hasn’t lacked is spirit. He has probably been there for the taking for much of the week but nobody has been able to finish the job off. Given that he has pulled out of Miami next week it would be no surprise to see the best of Nadal here knowing that he isn’t going to play again until the clay season comes around.
The breakthrough in the career of Taylor Fritz at this level came here last season when he made it through to the semi-final and he has built on that by going one better this year. He won’t want it to end there though and will give it his all in this final. He doesn’t have a lot to lose but he has been on court for a while this week. He has shown all the qualities needed to be a big player over the remainder of the campaign.
Fritz has battled hard this week and while the draw has opened up for him in some places his win over Andrey Rublev was very appealing because he used his power to good effect. He will need a lot of that over the course of this final and he will need to serve well but if he can do that then he isn’t a forlorn hope in this match. The one question mark will be how he deals with the occasion of playing a superstar on home soil.
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Head to head
These two have only played twice and only one of those has been under normal rules as their other one was in the Tie Break Tens tournament. Nadal won both matches with the one which matters coming in the final in Acapulco a couple of years ago. Nadal won that match for the loss of just five games and while Fritz will feel he is a better player now, that loss highlights the size of the task that is in front of him in this match.
I don’t think Taylor Fritz will win this final but I don’t see him not giving a good account of himself. He certainly won’t be inconvenienced by Nadal needing more than three hours to see off his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-final on Saturday evening while the American sat back with his feet up. I don’t think Nadal will be jaded or anything in this final but it might keep him from being at his very best which would be no bad thing for Fritz.
Nadal has been vulnerable on his serve this week so there might not be the intensity to hold serve that would normally be on Fritz in this match so the 4.5 game handicap could be even bigger than it would normally look. There is no way Nadal can cover this handicap with just one break of serve in each set if Fritz serves first but I think the American is good enough to take four games in each set even if he were to go down routinely. If he doesn’t go as easily he’ll comfortably stay within 4.5 games so I like Fritz with that start.
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