Hometown Tennis Hero Taylor Fritz Takes Down Rafael Nadal

San Diego-born Taylor Fritz defeated tennis star Rafael Nadal at the 2022 Indian Wells Masters Tournament to win his first Association of Tennis Professionals Masters 1000 title on Sunday, March 20. 

The 24-year-old became the first American Indian Wells men’s champion since 2001 and the youngest Indian Wells men’s champion since 2011. He also ended Nadal’s 20-match win streak and handed him his first loss in 2022. 

First-year mathematics major and member of the Point Loma Nazarene University men’s tennis team Alex Leischner watched the match with some of his teammates and was in disbelief over Nadal’s loss.

“It’s crazy that Fritz won. It’s cool to see this young guy beating one of the best players of all time,” said Leischner.

Sunday’s match was Fritz’s first win of nine matches against the “Big Three.” The “Big Three” is the nickname for Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the three men who have been dominating the tennis world since 2003.

“It was a really significant match in tennis because the ‘Big Three’ have been dominating for so many years and hardly anyone beats them, so for it to be Taylor Fritz is just crazy. It was a good surprise,” said second-year PLNU women’s tennis team member Thelma Sepulveda.

Fourth-year finance major and member of the PLNU men’s tennis team Jasdeep Paintal attended the match in person and experienced the insane atmosphere.

“Everyone was yelling the entire time. The crowd would be chanting for Rafael Nadal as the fan favorite and on the very next point be cheering on Fritz, the hometown hero,” said Paintal. “When Fritz came back to win the second set, everyone went crazy.”

Fritz was born and raised in San Diego, amplifying his win on one of the biggest stages in Southern California. Fritz told ATP that he fulfilled his childhood dream of winning in the area in which he had grown up.

“It’s even more significant for me because it shows that there’s so much talent in the community and that maybe I could do something great in the future as well,” Sepulveda, who also grew up in the San Diego area,  said.

Paintal, who grew up just outside San Diego county in Temecula, has played in some of the same tournaments that Fritz had, and he has seen Fritz practice and compete for years. He also knows Fritz’s father. 

He explained that Fritz did not have an exceptional start to his professional career and it was uncertain if he would ever make it big. Paintal noted that Fritz’s success is inspiring for everyone who has seen Fritz progress over the years.

“It’s like you don’t know him personally, but you feel like you do because you’ve seen him compete for so long,” Paintal said.

Fritz told the Los Angeles Times that growing up he would watch Nadal “win everything.” Nadal was his childhood idol, so beating him was a dream that he never thought would come true.

“It really inspires all of the young tennis players and the next generation of tennis players to see that someone so young and talented was able to work so hard and defeat one of his childhood idols,” said Sepulveda.

Written By: Jenna Bernath