Rafael Nadal missed the second part of 2021 due to a foot injury. The Spaniard was unsure what to expect in 2022, traveling to Melbourne and hoping for the best. As it turned out, Nadal made a career-best start, winning all 20 matches ahead of the Indian Wells final.
Rafa came to Indian Wells as the Australian Open champion and experienced the first setback in the desert. The Spaniard fractured his left rib and missed Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Nadal battled past his young compatriot Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-final, prevailing 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in three hours and 12 minutes!
Two rivals pushed each other to the limits in windy conditions, and Nadal prevailed with a better performance in the decider. Nadal won only two points more than Alcaraz and seized six breaks from 21 opportunities. A teenager delivered five breaks from 14 chances, giving his everything but finishing his journey in the semi-final.
The rivals stayed neck and neck in the shortest and more advanced rallies. Rafa made the crucial difference with a single break in the decider to advance into his 53rd Masters 1000 final.
Rafael Nadal fractured his left rib in the Indian Wells semi-final.
The veteran fractured his left rib in the encounter’s closing stages, feeling the pain while breathing already after the match.
However, he decided to play in the final against Taylor Fritz after thinking it was a muscle spasm, not a fractured rib. Seeking his fourth consecutive title, Rafa experienced a 6-3, 7-6 defeat against the American for his first loss in 2022.
Nadal sprayed over 30 unforced errors and handed the first Masters 1000 trophy to the 24-year-old Fritz. Taylor was not at his best either, experiencing an ankle injury in the semi-final against Andrey Rublev but enduring all the efforts to lift the trophy.
Taylor won ten points more than Rafa and fended off eight out of ten break chances, mainly in the second set. Playing miles below his best, Nadal got broken four times from nine opportunities offered to his young opponent to finish on the losing side.
Rafa missed Monte Carlo and Barcelona and stayed away from the court until the Madrid Masters. “I did not lose a match until the Indian Wells final, scoring 20 straight victories. I fought against Carlos Alcaraz when I broke my rib in the encounter’s closing stages.
I could barely breathe in the locker room after the match. However, I decided to play against Taylor because they told me it was probably a muscle spasm. I would not have played if I had known I had a broken rib. From then on, the year was very complicated,” Rafael Nadal said.