Taylor Fritz is adding new meaning to “California Dreamin ‘” this week at Indian Wells.
The 20th seed reached his first ATP Masters 1000 final on Saturday when he defeated seventh seed Andrey Rublev 7-5, 6-4 in the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open. The home favorite will face a Spaniard, Rafael Nadal or Carlos Alcaraz, on Sunday in the biggest match of his career.
“It’s just unreal, really. It doesn’t even seem real. I’m just trying to take in the moment, regroup and come back tomorrow for the final,” Fritz said in his on-court interview. “But it’s a dream come true.”
Fritz, a California native, is the first man from his country to make the Indian Wells championship match since John Isner in 2012. When the American arrived in the desert for last October’s edition, he had never advanced to an ATP Masters 1000 semi-final . In 2021 he reached the semi-finals, and now he is 9-1 at Indian Wells in the past six months, including a 3-0 record against Top 10 opponents.
Fritz won a battle for the baseline against the big-hitting Rublev to earn the biggest victory of his six-plus years on Tour. It seemed the match might have been slipping out of his grasp after he missed an opportunity to serve out the first set at 5-2. However, he never panicked and continued his aggressive play throughout to eliminate the frustrated Rublev after one hour and 50 minutes.
“Today I definitely played my best match of the tournament so far. I was so much more aggressive from the ground and so much more solid [with] my groundstrokes, whereas [in] other matches I was maybe playing a bit safer, “Fritz said.” I really tried to take it to him and impose my game today. I did it well, so that helped a lot. “
Rublev is used to dominating action in his matches, pummeling forehands from the first opportunity to keep the action on his terms. But Fritz fearlessly attacked the 10-time ATP Tour titlist’s serve to snap his opponent’s 13-match winning streak.
Rublev found ways to rein in his unforced errors in key moments – saving eight of the 11 break points he faced – and keep the match close. But the seventh seed faced too much pressure to overcome, often showing his frustration to his team. At the end of the first set, he launched a ball into the California sky and then punched his racquet’s stringbed, drawing blood and necessitating a medical timeout. Earlier in the set, he forcefully thundered his racquet into his leg di lui.
Fritz did not sprint out to an immediate lead in the second set like he did in the first, when he had opportunities to earn a 5-1 lead. But he was calm throughout, especially when he saved two break points at 4-4 between strong serving and powerful groundstrokes.
In the last game of the match, Rublev hit one of the best reflex volleys you will see all year. But on the next point, he missed an easy forehand right on top of the net. And Fritz capitalized on his first match point by doing what he did throughout the encounter, crushing a Rublev serve.
The American now leads the Russian 3-2 in their ATP Head2Head series. They have known each other since the juniors, having been born eight days apart. Fritz and Rublev shared a nice embrace at net, but it is the home favorite who will move on to the final.
“It’s amazing. Just the support I got today, the crowd was so amazing and they really pushed me on,” Fritz said. “I wouldn’t be able to do it if I didn’t have all the support here, so thank you.”
Did You Know?
If Fritz wins the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, he will become the first American man to lift the Indian Wells trophy since Andre Agassi in 2001.