Indian Wells talking points: Rafael Nadal, Taylor Fritz, Iga Swiatek, Maria Sakkari, Nick Kyrgios, Daniil Medvedev
Taylor Fritz ends Rafael Nadal's winning streak at 20, Iga Swiatek wins another title, Carlos Alcaraz, Simona Halep and Nick Kyrgios impress. Swiatek beat Maria Sakkari to claim the women's title while Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev both lost early. We run through some of the top talking points from the BNP Paribas Open in California.
Highlights: Fritz claims first Masters title with stunning win over Nadal at Indian Wells
Fritz might have beaten two top-10 players on his way to the Indian Wells semi-finals last year, and another in the semi-finals this week, but his straight-sets win over Rafael Nadal in the men's final was still a huge surprise, especially as the American came into the match with an ankle issue.
"It's ridiculous how I could play today,” said the new world No.13 afterwards. "I've never experienced this much pain in my life.”
Nadal was also impacted by injury issues and struggled in the first set to find his best form in windy conditions. Nadal's poor break-point conversation rate (two of 10) was a crucial factor in the match, but he was always playing from behind after Fritz came out firing, pounding the ball on both sides and racing into a 4-0 lead. It was a hugely impressive performance from Fritz, who scored his first win in nine matches against the 'Big Three', having been advised by his coaches not to play due to his ankle.
"I've lost these matches against the big guys my whole life," he said. "It's always felt like they were just unbeatable. So to do it on the biggest stage, there's no other way."
Fritz will be hoping this is the launchpad for even further success after becoming the first American man to win Indian Wells since Andre Agassi in 2001.
Clay concern for Nadal
Everything was so perfect for Nadal, now it's not.
Nadal, who is up to No.3 in the world despite the loss, twice received treatment during the defeat to Fritz and said afterwards that he was having problems breathing without pain. The French Open is still two months away, but already thoughts have to turn to whether this injury will hinder his chances of a 14th title in Paris. If so it would be another cruel blow for Nadal after a dream start to the season where he appeared fit and healthy after a foot issue curtailed his 2021 season.
Nadal is not playing the Miami Open this week and was then scheduled to return at the Monte-Carlo Masters, which starts on April 10. Whether he still does remains to be seen.
Will Swiatek be next world No.1?
As Nadal has been rolling through the men’s game this season, it seems fitting that self-confessed Nadal super-fan Iga Swiatek is doing the same in the women’s game.
Swiatek has won her last 11 matches in a row to secure the first two WTA 1000 titles of the season, coming back a set down in her first three matches at Indian Wells and then winning the next three in straight sets.
New world No.2 Swiatek has also made the semi-finals of the Adelaide International and Australian Open to cap off a pretty impressive start to the year.
With world No.1 Ashleigh Barty out of the picture for now, Swiatek looks the player to beat on the WTA Tour. And, like with Nadal, the switch to clay should only strengthen her position. It may not be long before Swiatek has her sights on Barty’s place at the top of the rankings.
Kyrgios captures the attention
“Everyone who thinks that I'm bad for the sport is just an idiot. Like they have obviously got no idea.”
Once upon a time there was a school of thought that Nick Kyrgios was bad for tennis. That his on-court antics and provocative off-court comments did not do the sport any favours. After seeing Kyrgios light up the Australian Open and Indian Wells this year it would surely be tough to argue that remains the case – if it ever was.
Kyrgios still needs to show more consistency over the course of the season, but right now he appears dialled in and few will want to face him in Miami.
‘A very misfortunate bounce’ - Angry Kyrgios defends racquet smash
Alcaraz is already great
Carlos Alcaraz is going places. If that wasn’t clear before Indian Wells, it is now.
Alcaraz blazed a trail to the semi-finals and then pushed Nadal very close in a pulsating three-set match. The 18-year-old has risen to No.16 in the world rankings this week and big titles are surely on the horizon for one of the most talented players tennis has seen in years. Four-time Grand Slam champion Jim Courier even thinks Alcaraz could win his first major in the next 12 months.
“I think Alcaraz has the potential to do it in the next four majors,” Courier said on Tennis Channel.
Highlights: Nadal beats Alcaraz in three-set thriller to reach Indian Wells final
“All signs point towards opportunity for him – it wouldn’t surprise me.”
Nadal was also left in no doubt about his fellow Spaniard’s potential after their brilliant semi-final which the great Billie Jean King called one of the best matches she has ever seen.
"I think he's unstoppable in terms of his career," said Nadal. "I don’t have many doubts that he will be great, he is already by the way."
Norrie backs up title run
Cameron Norrie may not have defended his Indian Wells title, but there was no disgrace in the way he bowed out, losing to Alcaraz in the quarter-finals.
British No.1 Norrie has bounced back impressively from a disappointing start to the year that saw him beaten in the first round of the Australian Open. He won the Delray Beach Open, lost to Nadal in the Mexican Open final, and looked solid in his three matches in the desert. He was also up a break three times against Alcaraz.
While the stark conclusion from Norrie’s exit at Indian Wells might be that he is probably not going to hit the same heights as Alcaraz in his career, that could be true for most players on tour. But Norrie has gone from outside the top 60 this time last year to a firm top-20 player and there could still be further improvement to come.
Highlights: Alcaraz ousts defending champion Norrie at Indian Wells
Halep shows promising signs
Halep didn’t lift a title at Indian Wells, but she is one of the big winners from the last two weeks.
The former world No.1 showed signs that she is rediscovering her best form after a difficult 2021 that saw her miss the French Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics due to injury. Halep swept past seeds Sorana Cirstea and Coco Gauff before blowing away Petra Martic 6-1 6-1 and then losing to Swiatek in a high-quality semi-final.
Halep, who is working with new coach Morgan Bourbon, said after her first-round win at Indian Wells that she still doesn’t feel “that close” to her top form. If she can find even more then she should soon shoot even higher up the rankings and will be a contender for titles on clay.
Medvedev will try to put all that to one side at the Miami Open as he aims to reclaim top spot, which he can do by at least reaching the semi-finals. However, his growing frustration towards the end of his defeat to Gael Monfils suggests that might be easier said than done.
Alexander Zverev will be also hoping to show some improvement in Miami after a shock defeat to world No.39 Tommy Paul in the second round of Indian Wells.
That was Zverev's first ATP Tour match since his disqualification from the Mexican Open for attacking the umpire's chair, an incident he called the "worst moment" of his life. Zverev will hope to move on quickly and rediscover the form that saw him win the 2021 ATP Finals just a few months ago.
American men show promising signs
It was a good week for those cheering on home hopefuls at Indian Wells.
Seven American men reached the third round of the tournament, the most since 1994, and four made the last 16. Those numbers could have been even better if Sebastian Korda had converted a 5-2 third-set lead into victory over Nadal.
Jenson Brooksby and Tommy Paul both scored big upset wins – Brooksby beating fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Paul knocking out third seed Zverev – and Fritz capped it all off with his stunning victory in the final.
“I think for the first time in a while you can actually say American tennis on the men’s side is very promising,” said 36-year-old John Isner, whose time as the flag-bearer for his country may be coming to an end.
It’s difficult to say which, if any, of the seven Americans in the top 50 could win a Grand Slam title, but Korda and Brooksby, both 21, have great potential and Reilly Opelka and Fritz, both 24, have already shown they can go deep at tournaments.
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