INDIAN WELLS, California: American Taylor Fritz upset Rafael Nadal 6-3, 7-6 (5) Sunday to win the BNP Paribas Open and snap the 21-time major champion’s 20-match winning streak this year.
“It’s an honor to even be on the same court as this guy,” Fritz told the crowd. “I grew up watching this guy win everything.”
Nadal fought off a match point on his serve with a forehand winner to tie the second set 5-all. He had two break points on Fritz’s serve in the next game, but the American held for a 6-5 lead. Nadal held to force the tiebreaker.
Nadal sent two straight forehands well wide to set up Fritz’s second match point. Another Nadal error sent the 24-year-old American to the biggest victory of his career not far from where he grew up near San Diego. Fritz’s parents, Guy Fritz and Kathy May, are former tour players.
“Winning this tournament is just one of those crazy childhood dreams that you don’t think is ever going to happen,” he said.
Fritz dropped his racket and collapsed on his back. He got up smiling with a look of disbelief on his face. He became the first American man to win Indian Wells since Andre Agassi in 2001. Fritz earned $1.2 million.
Nadal’s 20-0 start to the year included the Australian Open, his 21st major championship that broke a tie with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
The Spaniard needed three sets to get by Nick Kyrgios in the quarterfinals and 18-year-old countryman Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals. During his win Saturday, Nadal needed treatment for pain in his left chest.
Nadal took two medical timeouts during the final. The first one came after he lost the first set. He went inside with a trainer after tapping his upper left chest, the same area that bothered him during Saturday’s semifinals. He got treatment on court after falling behind 5-4 in the second set.
“I tried my best during the last two weeks,” Nadal told the crowd. “Today was not possible. I had a good fight to the end.”
Fritz had his own health issue. He tweaked his ankle late in his semifinal win over No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev. He cut short a practice session early Sunday and blue medical tape could be seen above his high sock.
But it didn’t seem to affect him.
Fritz raced to a 5-1 lead in the first set, breaking Nadal twice. Nadal got a break back in closing to 5-3, but his backhand error gave Fritz another break and the set.
Iga Swiatek defeated Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-1 in an error-filled final to win the women’s title.
Swiatek will rise from fourth to a career-best No. 2 in the world in Monday’s WTA Tour rankings, trailing top-ranked Ash Barty, who skipped Indian Wells.
“Right now, it’s too surreal to describe it, honestly,” Swiatek said. “But for sure I want to go higher because I feel like getting the No. 1 is closer and closer.”
Sakkari will move from sixth to No. 3, the rising Greek star’s highest ranking yet. She equals countryman Stefanos Tsitsipas, who reached No. 3 in the ATP Tour rankings.
“I’m very proud that myself and Stefanos have actually grown tennis in Greece,” Sakkari said. “Having two players in that ranking position is something huge for us.”
Swiatek lost each of the first three times she played Sakkari, all last year. Last month, the 20-year-old Polish player beat Sakkari in the semifinals at Doha and went on to win the title.
“Especially winning after playing so well in Doha is giving me a lot of confidence and kind of belief that I can do it because I wouldn’t think of myself as someone who’s ready to play two tournaments in a row and win it,” Swiatek said.
Swiatek has five career titles, including the 2020 French Open. She’s 5-0 in her last five finals, losing only a combined 16 games. Her new ranking equals the highest ever by a Polish player, matching Agnieszka Radwanska.
Gusty winds affected serves and shots by both players, who had seven double faults each. There were seven service breaks in the first set alone, with Swiatek holding twice. Sakkari held once to tie the set, 4-all.
“I kind of had to win ugly because I felt like sometimes the ball is not going the direction I want,” Swiatek said. “It was pretty hard to play with precision.”
Swiatek held to go up 5-4. Sakkari led 40-30 on her serve, but a double fault gave Swiatek her third break point, and she cashed in on Sakkari’s netted backhand to take the set.
“She was actually hitting very deep and close to the lines. With the wind, it was tough for me,” Sakkari said. “But I was not moving the way I wanted. I was not playing the way I was playing the last few days. I don’t think she played lights-out tennis. She played very solid. She did what she had to do to beat me.”
Swiatek broke twice in the second set for a 5-1 lead. She served out the match, winning on a forehand in the corner of the baseline.
Swiatek earned $1.2 million and improved her record to a WTA Tour-leading 20-3 this year, including 11 matches in a row.
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