Taylor Fritz won the biggest title of his career to sensationally snap a visibly struggling Rafael Nadal’s perfect start to 2022 in the final at Indian Wells.
The Spaniard was the red-hot favourite heading into the final but saw his 20-match streak come to an astonishing halt as the number 20 seed claimed a 6-3 7-6 victory to become the first American to lift the trophy since Andre Agassi in 2001.
Fritz, who will climb to a career-high number 13 in the world as a result of his desert run, 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.
'Great to be back' - Nadal digs deep to see off plucky Cerundolo
"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.”
Despite the spotlight on Fritz's movement it was actually Nadal who was the one clearly ailing from the start of this contest.
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.

'I wanted to make it perfect before clay' - Nadal on first loss of season in Indian Wells final

Fritz stormed through his defences on a fourth break point in the first game and breezed into a 5-1 lead in the blink of an eye as Nadal lacked his usual energy and power.
The three-time champion somehow dragged a break back but the 24-year-old American was not to be denied, and he unlocked the Spaniard’s serve for a third time to take a bizarre and underwhelming opener in 39 minutes.
Nadal left court to speak to the doctor and receive some treatment and there was more urgency to his play in the second set. The pair exchanged breaks before a lengthy fifth game saw Fritz save four break points on his way to a plucky hold.

Taylor Fritz of the US hits a forehand return to Rafael Nadal of Spain in their ATP Men's Final at Indian Wells

Image credit: Getty Images

Nadal pressed for a breakthrough at 4-4 and conjured up a break point with a crosscourt pass to end a lung-busting 36-shot rally. However, he could not convert and received a massage prior to serving to stay in the title.
The 36-time Masters 1000 winner is no stranger to pressure moments, and he needed all of his experience to fend off championship point and remain in the hunt. Fritz then hit clutch mode to save two break points and pile more pressure Nadal’s way at 6-5.
The Mallorcan stood firm to force the breaker and looked to take control with a mini break to lead 5-4. However, he inexplicably hammered a drive volley well wide and then miscued on a forehand, leaving Fritz to serve it out and claim the breaker 7-5 on his second match point.
Nadal, who will now move up to third 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.
“Congrats to you, Taylor. 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.

Fritz on beating Nadal to win Indian Wells: 'This is one of those childhood dreams'

“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.”
- - -
Stream the 2022 French Open live and on-demand on discovery+
'Totally opposite' - McEnroe explains Nadal and Djokovic mindset differences
Raducanu looks to emulate Nadal 'fight and energy' after first-round win