Against all odds, Rafael Nadal made an incredible start to the season. The Spaniard missed the second part of the previous season, dealing with a foot injury and playing only two matches after Roland Garros. Heading to Melbourne at the beginning of the season, Nadal claimed a small ATP 250 title before conquering the second Australian Open, 13 years after the first one!
Nadal took down Daniil Medvedev after an incredible battle in the final and was hungry for more in the upcoming events. Feeling fine physically, Rafa lifted the fourth Acapulco trophy, beating all five rivals in straight sets and heading to Indian Wells as one of the favorites.
Eager to wrap up the hard-court swing on a high note, the Spaniard defeated five rivals to advance into the final and secure 20 consecutive victories since the start of the year. Seeking the fourth straight title and the first in the desert since 2013, Nadal suffered a 6-3, 7-6 loss to a first-time Masters 1000 finalist Taylor Fritz.
Both players were below their best due to injuries, and the young American stepped in as a more determined player to emerge at the top and celebrate the most significant title of his career. Nadal wasted too many chances in the second set and sprayed over 30 unforced errors to plague his chances.
Rafa admitted he felt a sharp pain while moving or breathing, describing it like having a needle inside. Taylor defended eight out of ten break points and stole Rafa's serve four times to emerge at the top. The American earned an early break in the encounter's first game and held at love for 2-0.
Pushing strong, Taylor broke Rafa again for a 3-0 lead and delivered another comfortable hold to extend the advantage after only 19 minutes. Fritz got broken while serving for the set at 5-2, but he stole Nadal's serve in the next game for 6-3 in 39 minutes.
Rafael Nadal lost the Indian Wells final to Taylor Fritz.
They traded breaks in the second set's games three and four, and Taylor defended four break points at 2-2 to stay in touch. The American erased another break point at 4-4 with a solid backhand attack that forced the Spaniard's error.
In game ten, Fritz earned a match point with a forehand winner, and Nadal saved it with a forehand attack to stay alive. The Spaniard wasted two more break chances in the 11th game, which would cost him dearly. In the tie break, Rafa sprayed a forehand drive-volley error at 5-4 and lost the next point on his serve to fall 6-5 behind.
Taylor converted the second match point to emerge at the top and lift a notable trophy. "I had pain, honestly. I had problems breathing, and I do not know if it was something on the rib. I do not know yet. When I was breathing and moving, it was like a needle all the time inside here.
I got dizzy a bit because of that pain. It's a kind of pain that limits me a lot. It's not only about pain; I do not feel very well because it affects my breathing. It's more than being sad about the loss; that's something I accepted immediately, already before the match ended. It's more about that I'm suffering a bit, honestly," Rafael Nadal said.