On Sunday at Indian Wells, Rafael Nadal showed why he is still one of the best players in the world by defeating compatriot Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-final. After a gruelling three hours and 12 minutes in heavy winds, the three-time BNP Paribas Open champion beat his fellow Spaniard 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to reach his fifth final in the California desert. For the trophy, the legendary lefty will face American tennis player and 20th seed, Taylor Fritz.
“I am super happy to be in the final,” Nadal said in his post-match interview. “It means a lot to me, and I’ll just keep going.”
With victories at the ATP 250 in Melbourne, the Australian Open, and Acapulco, Nadal has a personal-best 20-0 start to the season. With 37 ATP Masters 1000 titles, the fourth seed will tie Novak Djokovic for the most in history if he defeats Fritz on Sunday.
In the decider, despite the winds, both players raised their game. At 3-3, the crowd erupted in applause for the players’ efforts, particularly for Nadal’s incredible reflexes at the net, which had his own team shaking their heads in disbelief.
Nadal’s relentless pressure proved crucial in the end. When he cracked a huge forehand up the line and rushed to the net to put away a high forehand volley, the 35-year-old earned the decisive break at 4-3. That was his sixth break of the match, and it was the one that finally broke through the teen’s valiant resistance.
“I took it like another semi-final match. He’s not a young player that is 100 in the world and is coming. He is a top player already, so I treated it like that, playing against one of the best players in the world,” Nadal continued. “It doesn’t matter if he’s young or not, he’s a great guy, an amazing player and he has a fantastic future. I treated it like this, just tried to go on court, try my best and accept all the challenges. I am through and it was a very important victory for me.”