Indian Wells: Rafael Nadal outplays Carlos Alcaraz to enter final
With the win, Nadal remains unbeaten in 2022 as he extended his winning run to 20 matches. A victory against In the Indian Wells final would see 35-year-old Nadal equal Novak Djokovic’s record of 37 ATP Masters 1000 titles.
A defiant Rafa Nadal won an all-Spanish clash of the generations taming teenager Carlos Alcaraz 6-4 4-6 6-3 to remain unbeaten in 2022 by stretching his winning run to 20 matches on Saturday and clinch a place in the Indian Wells final.
The 21-time major champion threw his head back, smiled and raised both arms in triumph after escaping an aggressive Alcaraz. The 18-year-old never appeared rattled playing his vaunted countryman, who had the crowd, a 17-year advantage in age and loads of experience in his favor.
Nadal's perfect record is the third-best start to a season since 1990.
Nadal staved off three break points on his serve in the fifth game of the third set and then broke Alcaraz with a forehand volley winner to go up 5-3. Nadal served out the match with a love game, punctuating the 3-hour, 12-minute struggle with a 95-mph ace.
After holding to go up 4-3 in the third, Nadal called for a trainer, who appeared to give the soon-to-be 36-year-old star a chiropractic adjustment. Alcaraz outdueled Nadal in a second set that featured five service breaks, including four in a row.
Tied 4-all, Alcaraz broke Nadal in a game that lasted 19 minutes, 42 seconds. Nadal's errant forehand gave Alcaraz the advantage on the seventh break point of the game. The teenager tossed up a topspin lob near the baseline that Nadal could not catch up to and Alcaraz led 5-4. He served out the set, 6-4.
Giron (Aus Open)
Korda (Indian Wells)
20 in-a-row to start 2022 for @RafaelNadal! pic.twitter.com/9ULBq20Bag — Tennis TV (@TennisTV) March 20, 2022
Alcaraz got Nadal's attention from the start, breaking him in the first game of the match. The teen survived a six-deuce game on his serve to go up 2-0. Alcaraz was gutsy throughout, charging the net on break points and often coming up with winners.
As the match went on, the wind grew so strong it blew the players' white towels nearly onto the court and rattled Nadal's perfectly aligned drink bottles that he sets facing the court. Ball kids chased items that weren't anchored down.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) March 20, 2022
"In the second the conditions became crazy," said Nadal.
"It's not fun playing in wind like this, it is sometimes a challenge and I can enjoy that.
"In terms of tennis it is ok but in terms of stopping all the time it is not good."
Nadal will now meet Taylor Fritz in the final on Sunday. Seeded 20th, Fritz is the first American man to make the final since John Isner in 2012 and he'll try to be the first to win the title since Andre Agassi in 2001.
Fritz ended No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev's 13-match winning streak with a 7-5, 6-4 victory in the other semifinal. The Russian had won 13 consecutive matches since Feb. 14, including back-to-back titles at Marseille and Dubai.
Notably, a victory against Fritz would see 35-year-old Nadal equal Novak Djokovic’s record of 37 ATP Masters 1000 titles.