Rafael Nadal’s extraordinary winning streak ends in Indian Wells final defeat to Taylor Fritz

Fritz claimed the first Masters 1000 title of his career - GETTY IMAGES
Fritz claimed the first Masters 1000 title of his career - GETTY IMAGES

Rafael Nadal’s extraordinary winning streak came to an end in the final of Indian Wells, where he was undone by the combination of a damaged pectoral muscle and a courageous young opponent: 24-year-old American Taylor Fritz.

Nadal had arrived at this final on a 20-match sequence of victories in 2022, including his spectacular triumph at the Australian Open. But he has had a brutal few days, and all the mileage eventually told.

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He had spent Friday afternoon locked in a thrilling quarter-final against Nick Kyrgios, before Saturday delivered an even more punishing contest against fellow Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz. Nadal felt a twinge in his left pectoral during that Alcaraz semi-final, calling the trainer to courtside in the middle of the deciding set.

The injury didn’t improve overnight, and the stiffness in his chest left Nadal looking particularly flat and out of sorts during the first set of this final, which Fritz took 6-3.

Happily for the 15,000-odd fans packed into the main stadium at Indian Wells, Nadal came back stronger in the second set after leaving the court for medical attention. He still wasn’t at full power, but he was fist-pumping and sweating and using every ounce of his competitive instinct to keep Fritz within range.

Nadal fought off a Championship point as he served at 4-5 in the second set, forcing a stay of execution that lasted around 25 minutes as Fritz had to come through a closely contested tie-break.

Nadal struggled to generate his usual power - EPA
Nadal struggled to generate his usual power - EPA

The delay could easily have affected Fritz mentally. In the end, though, the American’s greater power was the deciding factor, and Fritz slammed one final forehand up the line to complete his 6-3, 7-6 victory in a little over two hours.


Fritz had also come in with an injury concern after rolling his ankle during his own semi-final win over Andrey Rublev. Medical opinion suggested that he should withdraw from the final on fitness grounds. But he insisted on pressing forward, after many hours of treatment, and felt delighted with the quality of his own movement once the match began.

Fritz’s victory ended a 21-year drought since an American of either gender had lifted the title in Indian Wells, the most prestigious of the nine Masters 1000 events which sit just under the grand slams in tennis’s pecking order. The last home champions here were Andre Agassi and Serena Williams, both in 2001.

Nadal will now need to rest his body before the start of the clay-court season, which begins in earnest with Monte Carlo on April 9. He has already posted the third-best start to a season since the ATP Tour was formed in 1990.

The only man to win more than 20 matches in a row at the beginning of an ATP season is Novak Djokovic, and he has done it twice. Djokovic’s world record stands at 41 matches, which he set in 2011. But he also stacked up 26 straight wins in the pandemic season of 2020 before being ejected from the US Open for striking a lineswoman with a stray ball.