After two thrilling semifinals, the men's final at the BNP Paribas Open is set between Taylor Fritz and Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard is unbeaten on the season and is looking to take a potential 21-0 record into the clay season, but the American has other ideas as he looks to win his first title since 2019.
No American has won a Masters 1000 title since John Isner won Miami in 2018, and the Americans have been shutout of an Indian Wells titles since 2001 when Andre Agassi won an all-American clash against Pete Sampras. Since then, James Blake, Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick, and John Isner have all made finals but have come up short with Fish being the closest of the group, losing in three sets to Novak Djokovic in 2008.
Nadal and Fritz have only played once and that also took place in a final, with this final being in Acapulco. The Spaniard stormed to a decisive 6-3, 6-2 victory en route to the title. Fritz will definitely be hoping for a better showing this time out.
Nadal's Road To The Final
The Spaniard has not been at his best at time throughout the tournament but has survived some stiff challenges. After a dominating first set against Sebastian Korda, the fourth seed quickly found himself down a double break in the third set with the American serving for the match. Against his idol, Korda cracked not once but twice while serving for a huge shock as Nadal won the third set tiebreak to advance to the third round.
The 21-time major champion came from behind in his opening set against Dan Evans in round three before overcoming Reilly Opelka in a tough battle, winning that one in two tiebreaks. In the quarterfinals, Nick Kyrgios was very much up to the challenge taking Nadal to a third set and the same can be said for young Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, both falling in the third set to Nadal.
Despite not being at his best, Nadal has found a way through once again and will be the favorite for the final against Fritz.
Fritz's Road To The Final
A first Masters 1000 final for the American, and he took advantage of a draw that saw many of his biggest threats go out earlier than expected. After making quick work of Kamil Majrchzak, many were looking forward to a potential third round clash against Pablo Carreno Busta. The Spaniard held two match points on serve against countryman Jaume Munar before falling in a third set tiebreak. Munar pushed Fritz to the brink, with the American also having to win in a decisive tiebreak.
After escaping against Alex de Minaur in round four, Fritz faced Miomir Kecmanovic in the quarterfinals. He won that match in three sets as the two top seeds he could have potentially faced, Matteo Berrettini and Felix Auger-Alliassime, bowed out of the tournament at the round of 16 and second round stages respectively.
Fritz then faced one of the most in-form players on tour in Andrey Rublev who had won 13 straight, headed into the match. After a hot start to the match, the Russian fought back valiantly to level set one before dropping serve to give the 20th seed set one.
The American number two then struck again late in set two to claim the match and a spot in a first Masters final.
Keys To The Final
For Nadal, it will be dictating rallies using forehand to attack the Fritz backhand. Despite Fritz's backhand firing on all cylinders against Rublev yesterday, it is still his weaker side by all means. The Spaniard will look to use his best shot to draw the American out wide and play into the open court.
Another factor for Nadal is the potential fatigue. He did play later in the day compared to Fritz and went over three hours against Alcaraz. The four seed also called for a medical timeout to get his pectoral checked out and has talked about his chronic foot issue not being at 100 percent this week. Even if it is a all-out physical battle, that will still suit Nadal more than Fritz but it has to be brought up how will the Spaniard hold up.
For Fritz, it's all about not getting caught up in the moment. The American is in the biggest final of his young career and has shown he has thoroughly enjoyed playing in the desert over these past few months after making the semifinal here in October and now in the finals just a few months later. He delivered when it matted against Rublev, but in his lone meeting against Nadal, he was clearly overmatched on a court with similar conditions to Indian Wells in Acapulco.
The American will need to find first serves and use first strike tennis to try and capture what would be the biggest title of his career. Fritz is striking his forehand faster than anyone this week, 80 MPH according to TennisTV commentators. However, he hasn't faced anyone with the likes of Nadal's topspin to prepare him for this match.
Expect Fritz to have a better showing in this match compared to his first meeting with Nadal, but it's hard to bet against the Spaniard in the moment and in matches like this.
Prediction: Nadal in three sets