WATCH: Fritz makes fifth appearance on Indian Wells TC Desk after maiden 1000 triumph

It’s insane to even be on the same court with these people, much less be able to beat one of them, to win such a big tournament. Taylor Fritz, following his defeat of Rafael Nadal in the Indian Wells final


Any number of elements in Taylor Fritz’s rampage through the California desert—he became the first American man since Andre Agassi in 2001 to win at Indian Wells—also qualify for the hyperbolic use of the word, “insane.”

Start with Nadal: The record-holder with 21 Grand Slam singles titles, Nadal bulled his way into the final with his 20th consecutive win in a perfect start to 2020. Fritz, meanwhile, had never even punched through to a Masters-grade final, never mind that of a major. Nadal stuffed 91 ATP titles in his career kit bag, Fritz had. . . one. On Sunday, the challenger’s pre-match practice began inauspiciously, with a scream of agony as Fritz tried to push off on the ankle he had tweaked in his previous match. His three-man support team advised Fritz to forfeit the final, but Fritz overruled—and apologized for ignoring their advice.

"I can't even begin to describe how ridiculous it is that I was able to play how I could play today," Fritz told reporters in the aftermath, after tears of pain gave way to those of joy. “I've never experienced worse pain in my life before a match.”

There’s a lot more territory to cover on this insanity trail, but it’s impossible to navigate it without stumbling over cliches that would make a B-movie producer blush. A native of Southern California, Fritz has a cannon for a right arm but wears a tender heart on his sleeve. He grew up attending Indian Wells, and frequently fantasized about winning it, likening the experience to “a wild dream [that] you never expect to actually happen.”


The 24-year old champ wasn’t the only one who found this result, and how it was achieved, dream-like. If you had suggested this outcome six, seven months ago, you might have been accused of hallucinating—or having a screw loose.

It’s not that Fritz lacked talent, anchored in great bloodlines. Mother Kathy May had been a Top 10 WTA pro. Guy Fritz, Taylor’s father, was a journeyman pro who knocked around with, among others in the Beverly Hills tennis set, Jimmy Connors. Taylor was identified as a great talent early, vaulted into the public eye at age 17, and he went on to become a centerpiece of the ATP’s long-running “Next Gen'' marketing initiative in 2019.

Tall (6-foot-5), lithe, nimble and undemonstrative Fritz was capable of generating great power, with both his serve and rally shots—particularly the forehand. He did not lack ambition, but it was expressed quietly. A diligent worker, he made steady ranking progress in ensuing years, but his attempts to break through to the elite level were confounded by a streak of tentativeness. Fritz had the tools to dictate play, but often seemed content to rally, playing cat-and-mouse. Then everything clicked last October at—ironically—Indian Wells.

In May of 2021, Fritz was wheeled off the clay courts at Roland Garros with a serious knee injury, only to make a near-miraculous recovery to compete at Wimbledon just one month after surgery. Due to the pandemic, the BNP Paribas Open moved from its early March time slot last year to early October. That’s when Fritz finally figured out the password to a Masters semifinal: Aggression (Upper case “A,” no special characters or numerals).

Fritz jumped to a career-best No. 13 in the ATP rankings Monday as a result of his title run.

Fritz jumped to a career-best No. 13 in the ATP rankings Monday as a result of his title run.


Fritz told me in an interview at the end of last year that he had always been prepared for the pressure and expectations created by his talent and his early success, but the real challenges he felt were within. “I think over time, they caused me to get away from the aggressive style I should play,” he said. “I played safer, more passive. I was just too scared. . . Scared to lose, so I couldn’t play the way I wanted to play.”

It may sound too simple to be true, but getting over that fear of unleashing the beast inside has made all the difference in the world. The process came to a head at Indian Wells, where Fritz spent the past two weeks punishing the ball, cracking serves, and painting lines. He kept the pedal to the metal the entire way, demonstrating that he had the will to propel his skills.

Fritz, whose insouciance and choir-boy visage always led some to judge him “soft”, has completely flipped the script. And he still doesn’t disguise or bury his feelings about how much success in the game means to him. His tears in the past were those of frustration, disappointment, even rage. It’s different now. As he said on Sunday, "I'm going to have to hold back tears for every single interview I do, every single on-court speech. This is going to be tough because I'm such a happy crier.”

Taylor Fritz still wears his heart on his sleeve. How insane is that?