May 26, 2022

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Fritz topples Rublev to reach ATP Indian Wells Masters final

Fritz topples Rublev to reach ATP Indian Wells Masters final

Taylor Fritz ended Andrey Rublev‘s 13-match ATP winning streak Saturday, beating the world number seven 7-5, 6-4 to reach the Indian Wells Masters final.

The 24-year-old American, ranked 20th in the world, is the first American man to reach the Indian Wells final since John Isner in 2012.

He’ll be vying to become the first US winner since Andre Agassi in 2001 when he faces either Spanish great Rafael Nadal or his 18-year-old compatriot Carlos Alcaraz on Sunday.

Nadal, who captured his record 21st Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open in January, is 19-0 in 2022.

For Alcaraz, 17 years Nadal’s junior, it’s a meeting with his idol as he seeks to continue to build a resume filled with precocious achievements, starting with his first ATP title in Rio de Janeiro in 2020.

He has since added a title at Umag and won again in Rio last month.

“Rafa is Rafa and Alcaraz is playing really well this whole week,” Fritz said. “He’s an amazing player. I’m going to have to play the way I did today.”

Fritz is into his first elite Masters 1000 final and in search of a second career ATP title after his victory at Eastbourne in 2019.

“This feeling is the reason why I play tennis,” said the Southern California native, who came out firing on all cylinders and seized a 3-0 lead in just 11 minutes.

Firing winners off both wings and punishing Rublev’s second serve, Fritz had a chance to go up 5-1, but Rublev managed to fight off three break points in a marathon game featuring eight deuces.

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As Fritz served for the set at 5-2, Rublev finally mustered his first break chances, delivering a stinging service return winner to put the set back on serve.

But Fritz broke again in the 12th game, Rublev giving him a third set point with a forehand wide then putting one into the net.

In a fit of frustration after the error-strewn set, Rublev repeatedly punched his racquet head with his right hand, opening cuts on his knuckles that apparently prompted his medical time out.

Rublev re-set for the second set, however, lifting his game as neither player faced a break point until the eighth game, when Rublev was able to fend off Fritz and hold with a service winner.

But he couldn’t convert his two break chances in the next game, and he gifted the American a match point when he sent an easy forehand volley long. Fritz took full advantage with another crushing service return winner.

“I had a really clear game plan so I wanted to establish that in the beginning, being really aggressive. I felt that would pay dividends and set the tone for later in the match,” Fritz said.

“He started playing a lot better, attacking a lot more in the second and I just told myself I had to keep hanging on until I got my chance.”

The only cloud on Fritz’s horizon was a twinge in his right lower leg late in the match.

“I felt like I pinched something on my last service game,” he said. “I only felt on the really explosive take-off trying to return his serve.

“On that match point I told myself no matter how bad it hurt I’m going to just have to go for it. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious.”

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