Indian Wells, USA

Yay or nay to new universal Grand Slam final-set rule? Nadal, Fritz and others address major change

By Joel Drucker Mar 17, 2022
Indian Wells, USA

Taylor Fritz, the happy crier whose inner beast on the court is anything but "soft"

By Peter Bodo Mar 21, 2022
Indian Wells, USA

Taylor Fritz won his first Masters title by holding off a full-throttle charge from Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells, and ending his win streak at 20

By Steve Tignor Mar 21, 2022
Indian Wells, USA

With wind casting precision aside, Iga Swiatek adopts "winning ugly" in Indian Wells final win over Sakkari

By Joel Drucker Mar 21, 2022
Indian Wells, USA

In Indian Wells stunner, Taylor Fritz hands Rafael Nadal first loss of 2022, and wins his first ATP Masters 1000 title

By TENNIS.com Mar 21, 2022
Indian Wells, USA

Iga Swiatek dismisses Maria Sakkari for Indian Wells crown, No. 2 ranking and 11th consecutive win

By TENNIS.com Mar 20, 2022
Indian Wells, USA

In supreme generational battle, Rafael Nadal's youthful energy helps see him past Carlos Alcaraz, and into the Indian Wells final

By Joel Drucker Mar 20, 2022
Indian Wells, USA

Indian Wells Men's Final Preview: Rafael Nadal vs. Taylor Fritz

By Steve Tignor Mar 20, 2022
Indian Wells, USA

Rafael Nadal survives Carlos Alcaraz and swirling wind over three-plus hours in moving to 20-0 on the year

By TENNIS.com Mar 20, 2022
Indian Wells, USA

Taylor Fritz says his “normal level” has gone way up in 2022. Are Masters 1000 finals going to be his new norm?

By Steve Tignor Mar 20, 2022

Advertising

WATCH: Dimitrov chats with Chanda & Steve at the TC Desk

INDIAN WELLS, Calif.—At 2:30 p.m. this afternoon, Taylor Fritz entered the media interview room. For the second straight day, he’d won a match in a third-set tiebreaker. Naturally, Fritz’s consciousness about what happens at 6-all was high.

“I think it's more exciting probably for the fans to be able to see that match tiebreaker,” he said about the new rule change that implements a 10-point deciding tiebreaker at all four Slams. “But I will kind of miss seeing people [at] 20-20 or like 14-14 in the fifth, and going and watching that. That's just like an absolute battle. I think it does suck for those [players] because there's, like, you're so done for your next match if you have one of those. But it's tradition and I will miss seeing those crazy battles.

"But it's probably good for fans and good for the players if they want to move forward in the tournament. I think if I find myself in one of those in the future I'll be pretty happy that they have that rule now.”

Two hours later, in came Rafael Nadal. He too had been deeply extended, beating Reilly Opelka in a pair of tiebreakers, the first 7-3, the second 7-5.

“Well, I don't care much honestly,” Nadal said about the new rules.

“I honestly don't have a clear opinion. I am not in favor or not against. I think that's what they decided. Happy with it or not? I don't care.

"Honestly, I don't think going to make a big difference. I read that everyone going to be the same. In some way that's positive. I don't think in Roland Garros makes a big impact. My opinion the biggest impact going to be in Wimbledon. Sometimes it's so difficult to break, so the matches become very long. But I don't feel that for Roland Garros change a lot. Okay, yes, can be a few more games, but I don't feel in Roland Garros you going to go normally 22-20. In Wimbledon that can happen.”

Advertising

Never forget...

Never forget...

Soon after that, Grigor Dimitrov offered his thoughts after beating John Isner—no stranger to extended fifth sets at Slams—6-3, 7-6 (6).

“I think it’s great,” said Dimitrov. “It gives a better to recover and it evens out the field a little more.”

“It’s good,” said Tennis Channel analyst Martina Navratilova. “We’ve been saying we should do it all along. It should be the same ending across the board.”

“It’s a good thing,” said Dean Goldfine, Sebastian Korda’s coach. “It was unfair before. It’s great that you can see the end in sight.”

Advertising

Happy with it or not? I don't care. Rafael Nadal, on the new universal Grand Slam final-set rule

Talk of tiebreakers naturally triggered an inquiry about what it takes to compete successfully in them. Nadal, having just diffused the dangerous Opelka, offered an answer that many an ambitious player can learn from.

“I mean, I can't tell you,” he began. “I can create a story, but honestly I don't have a secret or thing that I am sure that can work. I can tell you what I tried. What I tried is to don't help him to play from good positions, especially when I am serving. I tried to play with high percentage of first serves, especially in the tiebreaks, because then if you start to miss first serves, you open the door for him to go for a big return. Is not in your hands anymore.

"Try to put balls in on the return. Find the right balance between not playing too aggressive, because then you have risk of mistakes, and not playing too defensive because you know he has a great forehand and he going to go for the winner. Playing against a player like him, it's about trying to find the balance between taking risks and playing enough aggressive without taking a lot of risk to don't allow him to play from comfortable positions."

Advertising

In back-to-back days at Indian Wells, Fritz clinched via a deciding tiebreaker.

In back-to-back days at Indian Wells, Fritz clinched via a deciding tiebreaker.

For Fritz, it’s important to pay attention to what’s happened in the prior 12 games.

“You've played a whole match,” he said, “so it's about knowing what's kind of worked for you in the match and also understanding what's worked for your opponent. So you're going to want to take away the things that have worked for your opponent and try to dictate your game as much as possible, make them feel as uncomfortable as possible. A lot of it is handling things. I don't know. Like, doing your strategy, handling your things, but then also understanding what your opponent's trying to do as well.”

The flexibility shown by Nadal and Fritz on this occasion is a far cry from what happened when the tiebreaker was introduced in 1970. At the time, many pros were angry at this truncated approach to scoring, particularly since the inaugural tiebreaker was a sudden-death version, won by the player to first reach five points. But the mission at that point was to create a more fan-friendly viewing experience.

As US Open tournament director Bill Talbert said back then, “No player ever bought a ticket.” So it is with that we say goodbye to epic fifth sets.