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Fritz hands Nadal first 2022 defeat

Taylor Fritz of the US hits a backhand return to Rafael Nadal of Spain in their ATP Men’s Final at the Indian Wells tennis tournament on Sunday, March 20, 2022 (March 21 in Manila), in Indian Wells, California. AFP PHOTO

Taylor Fritz of the US hits a backhand return to Rafael Nadal of Spain in their ATP Men’s Final at the Indian Wells tennis tournament on Sunday, March 20, 2022 (March 21 in Manila), in Indian Wells, California. AFP PHOTO

INDIAN WELLS: Taylor Fritz stunned Rafael Nadal 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) on Sunday (Monday in Manila) to win the ATP Indian Wells Masters and end the 21-time Grand Slam champion’s perfect 20-0 run to start 2022.

Fritz, ranked 20th in the world, claimed his second career title and his first at the elite Masters 1000 level while denying Nadal a record-equaling 37th Masters crown.

The 24-year-old American achieved his biggest triumph despite an injured right ankle that was so painful when he tested it Sunday morning, he didn’t think he’d be able to play.

“This is just one of those childhood dreams, winning this tournament especially Indian Wells, this is one of those childhood dreams you never even think can come true,” the Southern California native said, fighting back tears.

The 35-year-old Nadal was also pushing himself through pain, twice receiving treatment on his upper body during the match.

“Obviously there’s some stuff going on,” Fritz said of Nadal’s struggles, but that didn’t dim his joy in becoming the first American men’s champion at Indian Wells since Andre Agassi in 2001 and the youngest Indian Wells men’s winner since Novak Djokovic in 2011.

Nadal had already said he would skip next week’s Miami Masters to give his body a rest and prepare for the clay court season.

After fearing a foot injury that halted his 2021 campaign might end his career, the Spaniard claimed a record-setting 21st Grand Slam singles title with an epic comeback victory over Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final, then won the title in Acapulco.

Battling to the end, he saved one match point in the 10th game of the second set, but in a tense tiebreaker that decided it all Fritz proved too much. — Agence France-Presse

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