Is Rafael Nadal's win over Carlos Alcaraz his last in Indian Wells?

Rafael Nadal defeated Carlos Alcaraz in the 2022 Indian Wells semi-final thriller

by Jovica Ilic
Is Rafael Nadal's win over Carlos Alcaraz his last in Indian Wells?
© Matthew Stockman / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal withdrew from Indian Wells ahead of the first-round clash against Milos Raonic, revealing he was not ready to compete. The Spanish legend will most likely never return to Indian Wells, struggling with an ongoing hip injury that has ruined his progress in the previous 14 months.

Rafa came to the USA early, playing an exhibition match against Carlos Alcaraz in Las Vegas before deciding to skip the first Masters 1000 event of the season. Nadal will try to recover for Monte Carlo, hoping for a good clay swing and targeting another Roland Garros success.

Rafa is a three-time Indian Wells champion, lifting trophies between 2007 and 2013. The Spaniard had a couple of more good results in the previous ten years, although he failed to lift another trophy in the desert.

unknown© Matthew Stockman / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Nadal was on the verge of that two years ago, reaching the final but falling to Taylor Fritz in straight sets after breaking his rib in the semi-final against Carlos Alcaraz.

The match against his young compatriot could easily be Rafa's last in Indian Wells, and it came after a thriller. Rafa beat Carlos 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in three hours and 12 minutes, notching his 20th win from as many matches in 2022 and reaching the fourth consecutive final.

The conditions were almost unplayable, with the wind disrupting the rivals and their rhythm. However, Rafa and Carlos did their best to make it a memorable duel, pushing each other to the limits from start to finish. The more experienced Spaniard took four points more than the young gun.

Rafael Nadal scored his most recent Indian Wells win over Carlos Alcaraz.

Rafa got broken five times and worked hard to grab six breaks from 21 opportunities against a persistent rival. Alcaraz gave everything in his first Masters 1000 semi-final, showing his full potential but missing the title clash.

Rafa created a slim advantage in the most advanced exchanges. Every other segment saw them standing neck and neck, with a three-time champion prevailing with a break in the deciding set. Nadal landed in 79% of the first serve in the opening set, which brought him nothing in windy conditions.

The veteran struggled in his games and lost almost half of the points, experiencing two breaks from as many chances offered to a teenager.

Rafael Nadal, Indian Wells 2022© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

It was nothing in comparison to what we witnessed in Alcaraz's games, with the young gun competing against 17 break points!

He did a marvelous job defending 14, although Nadal created a buffer with three return games on his tally. Carlos kicked off the duel in style, landing a forehand winner in the first point and notching a backhand crosscourt winner for a break.

A teenager had to dig deep to cement it, playing against five break points in the second game and defending them in testimony of his desire to compete against his idol. Carlos closed the game with a smash winner, confirming the break and opening a 2-0 lead.

Rafa held in the third game, reducing the deficit and breaking back in the next one when Carlos played a wayward forehand. Nadal grabbed the third straight game for 3-2, with the clock already showing over half an hour! Alcaraz led 40-15 in the sixth game before losing ground, allowing Nadal to clinch another break and move 4-2 up, settling into a fine rhythm.

Rafa ended his streak after a volley error in the seventh game, losing serve and bringing his compatriot back to the positive side. Carlos faced another test at 3-4, denying four break chances and locking the result. Leaving those opportunities behind, Nadal held in game nine with a service winner and prepared another charge on the return in the next one, creating five more break points.

Alcaraz valiantly defended four before hitting a loose backhand slice, losing serve and pushing Nadal 6-4 in front after a grueling 66 minutes.

Carlos Alcaraz & Rafael Nadal, Indian Wells 2022© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

They found the range behind the initial shot in the second set and produced four fine holds for 2-2.

However, they traded five straight breaks after that, making the conditions harder and harder for the servers. We will all remember the ninth game and Alcaraz's seven break chances. Nadal denied six before the young gun seized the seventh with a lob winner that sent him 5-4 up.

Carlos held after deuce in game ten, wrapping up the set and forcing a decider after two hours and 20 minutes. Like in the second set, the third started with four convincing holds. Rafa faced the ultimate test in the fifth game, saving three break points and clinching an extended rally to deliver a crucial hold.

The seventh game reached deuce, and Nadal brought it home with a powerful serve, building another lead and keeping the pressure on the other side with over three hours on the clock! Rafa grabbed a decisive break in the eighth game thanks to a volley winner, moving in front and serving for the win at 5-3.

The veteran emerged at the top with a service winner, wrapping up a grueling encounter and reaching his 53rd and most recent Masters 1000 final. This could be Nadal's last triumph in Indian Wells, and he at least made it memorable!

Rafael Nadal Carlos Alcaraz Indian Wells