An overjoyed Taylor Fritz has spoken of his shock, delight and relief after battling through an ankle injury to beat Rafael Nadal in the final at Indian Wells.
Fritz claimed the biggest title of his career to defeat a visibly struggling Nadal and break the Spaniard's perfect start to 2022 in stunning fashion in the ATP showpiece in the desert.
Nadal, who was the red-hot favourite heading into the final, saw his 20-match streak come to an astonishing halt as the 20th seed claimed a 6-3 7-6 victory to become the first American to lift the trophy since Andre Agassi in 2001.
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Fritz, who will climb to a career-high No. 13 in the world as a result of his run in the Californian desert, had been struggling with an ankle injury following his semi-final triumph over Andrey Rublev, and he admitted it had been a major concern in the hours leading up to the biggest match of his life to-date.
"This is like one of those childhood dreams you never even think could come true," Fritz said after the match.
"I just can’t believe it’s real. I can’t even begin to describe how ridiculous it is I could play like I did today [with the ankle]. I’ve never experienced worse pain than that before a match. I took a couple of changes in direction with my steps and screamed. It was tough.
“We did a lot of work on the ankle leading up to the match. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions thinking there’s no way I can play. Then I went out hitting on the back courts and feeling happy, thinking I can play. It didn’t affect me at all on court, so I couldn’t be happier.”
He added: “I’ve lost matches against the big guys my whole life. It feels like they are unbeatable. So to do it on the biggest stage, there’s no other way, to win a big title you have got to beat the best.
"He was unbeaten too. I hope he’s okay, I know there was some stuff going on. I can’t imagine how his body is feeling after 20-something matches.”
The 35-year-old Nadal, who will now move up to No. 3 in the world, could not hide his disappointment during the trophy ceremony as he missed out on a record-equalling 37th Masters title, but he was typically gracious in defeat.

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“Congrats to you, Taylor," Nadal said in his on-court speech. "Well done today, to you and your team. You are doing great. I know it’s a big day for all of you, so enjoy it. Very well played.
“I tried my best during the last two weeks. Today it was not possible, but I had a good fight to the end I think, and I’m happy for that.
"It’s been a very emotional beginning to the season for me. It’s been a while since I had a chance to play here, and everyone knows it’s one of my favourite places, without a doubt, so I'm very happy to be back. I really enjoy it a lot every single day that I spend here at Indian Wells. Hopefully I can keep coming back for the next couple of years.”
The 21-time Grand Slam champion picked up a pectoral problem late in his epic triumph over Carlos Alcaraz and he cut a forlorn and somewhat lost figure throughout the opening set before going on to lose the final in disappointing fashion.

Highlights: Fritz claims first Masters title with stunning win over Nadal at Indian Wells

Speaking later in his press conference, Nadal reflected on his disappointment at not quite achieving his mission of remaining unbeaten until the clay-court season.
"Honestly, I wanted to make it perfect before [the] clay," Nadal admitted. "[It would] have been very, very, very beautiful.
"Honestly, I am sad because of the way I was not able to compete. It is tough to have these feelings, every day, but especially in the final is very, very ugly. But, yeah, in sport it is not about talking of the past. We need to talk about today, and today is a difficult day for me.
"I had problems breathing. I don't know if it is something on the rib, I don't know yet. When I'm breathing, when I'm moving, it's like a needle all the time inside here. I get dizzy a little bit because it's painful. It's a kind of pain that limits me a lot.
"It is not only about pain, I don't feel very well because it affects my breathing. [I am] more than sad [about the breathing] than for the loss, something that I accepted immediately, and even before the match ended, it's more about that I am suffering a little bit, honestly."
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