Rafael Nadal announces end season through injury in 2021
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Rafael Nadal’s unbeaten streak for the season has come to an end at the hands of Taylor Fritz in the Indian Wells final. The 24-year-old American won his maiden Masters 1000 final to take home the biggest title of his career, upsetting the world No 4 6-3 7-6(5) in two hours and six minutes. Both men had picked up injuries in their semi-finals but Fritz came out firing and didn’t look hampered as he overpowered the 21-time Major champion.
There was drama before the final had even started as Fritz’s participation was thrown into doubt when he cancelled his last practice session just five minutes in, struggling with an ankle injury he had picked up in the final game of his semi-final victory over Andrey Rublev on Saturday.
With all signs pointing towards the American withdrawing from his maiden Masters 1000 final, he managed to take to court and looked as if he had no problems as he raced to a 4-0 lead in under 20 minutes. Instead it was the fourth seed who looked hampered, failing to get a look in at Fritz’s serve.
At 2-5 down in the opener, Nadal called for both the physio and doctor to come onto court at the next changeover and he left the court for treatment after trading breaks with Fritz which saw the world No 20 take a 6-3 lead. The 21-time Major champion had called the trainer during his three-hour three-set semi-final against Carlos Alcaraz on Saturday for a pectoral injury and seemed bothered by the same issue throughout the opening set.
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He continued to play upon returning to court and managed to secure the first break of the second set to briefly lead 2-1 before Fritz broke back to level things. The 24-year-old then managed to fend off four break points in the next service game as he took the lead over Nadal once more for a set and 3-2.
Both stayed level until 4-4, when Nadal forced another break point in an epin 36-shot rally to give himself the chance to serve for the second set but the Spaniard netted two shots in a row and sent a ball long to held Fritz hold on for 5-4, putting himself within a game of his first-ever Masters 1000 title. The trainer was back out for Nadal as the pair went to sit down at the change of ends.
Fritz saw his opportunity and pounced on Nadal’s service game, earning himself a match point at 30-40 but sent a ball long to get Nadal back to deuce. The Spaniard managed to fire a forehand past his opponent on game point and let out a huge “vamos” as he saved a match point to keep himself alive for 5-5. It was the American’s turn to save two break points and put himself within a game of the title again at 6-5.
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Nadal held to force a tiebreak but it was Fritz who immediately went up a mini-break. As the match hit the two hour mark, the Spanaird managed to get himself back level in the breaker with a sneaky drop-shot at the net. Nadal then took a mini-break lead at 5-4 but sent a forehand wide to blow his advantage. It was the world No 20 who then took the lead to set up his second championship point 21 minutes on from the first and he managed to close it out this time for a 6-4 7-6(5) victory.
It means Nadal’s career-best start to a season ends at 20 wins. The world No 4 had picked up titles in Melbourne, Acapulco and a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open as part of his run but failed to nab a fourth title as he fell at the final hurdle in Indian Wells.
Fritz will now crack the top 15 for the first time in his career after picking up the title in his home state of California. He will next compete in the Miami Open, beginning next week, while Nadal has already opted to skip the second hard-court Masters 1000 and give himself time to adjust for the upcoming clay-court season.
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