Rafael Nadal and Taylor Frtiz will battle for the Indian Wells 2022 title after overcoming their semi-final opponents in very different fashions.
The three-time BNP Paribas Open champion, Nadal, reached his fifth final with a thrilling 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory over his fellow Spaniard after a grueling three hours and 12 minutes in heavy winds.
Eighteen-year-old Alcaraz saved 15 of the 20 break points he faced through two sets, but failing to save the only one he faced in the decider proved fatal.
Alcaraz came out firing, launching ground strokes without fear to overwhelm Nadal. The 18-year-old broke Nadal early after crushing a laser-like cross court backhand winner before saving five break points in the next game to consolidate it. As aggressive as Alcaraz was, he also made some untimely errors that put him under pressure. And once fourth-seeded Nadal worked his way into the match, he showed no intention of letting go, even against heavy winds.
The lefty earned a jaw-dropping 17 break points in the opener, claiming three of them. Although Alcaraz showed his own grit and determination by saving most of those chances and getting back on serve after losing four consecutive games, he found himself on the back foot in games far too often.
With the momentum full on the veteran’s side the 18-year-old did well to stay in contact early in the second set as the wind began to pick up.
At 4-4 in the second set Nadal’s service game lasted just about 20 minutes. On his seventh break point of the game, Alcaraz hit an incredible lob that left Nadal helpless. He then served out the set to force a decider on Stadium 1.
In the end, Nadal’s unrelenting pressure proved critical. The 35-year-old earned the decisive break at 4-3 when he cracked a huge forehand up the line and rushed to the net to put away a high forehand volley. That was his sixth break of the match, and the one that allowed him to finally overcome the teen’s commendable resistance.
Nadal is off to a personal-best 20-0 start to the season with titles at a Melbourne ATP 250, the Australian Open and Acapulco. If the fourth seed defeats Fritz on Sunday, he will tie Novak Djokovic for the most ATP Masters 1000 titles in history with 37.
Home favorite Fritz, eliminated seventh seed Andrey Rublev in straight sets in the semi-finals of the Indian Wells with the scores of 7-5, 6-4.
Nadal holds a 1-0 record against the American beating him in the 2020 Acapulco final in straight sets.