'What is going on': Tennis world stunned by 'strange' Rafa Nadal drama

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Rafa Nadal was forced to take a medical timeout after dropping the first set of the Indian Wells final against Taylor Fritz. Pic: ATP
Rafa Nadal was forced to take a medical timeout after dropping the first set of the Indian Wells final against Taylor Fritz. Pic: ATP

Rafael Nadal left tennis fans scratching their heads after a bizarre start to his Indian Wells final against American Taylor Fritz.

The Spaniard's unbeaten start to 2022 came to a dramatic end after a 3-6 6-7 (5/7) loss to the American in California.

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Fritz went into the match under an injury cloud, with fears the American might have to withdraw due to the ankle issue he suffered in the semi-final win over Andrey Rublev.

Footage showed the American being put through his paces before the match, as he tested out the extent of the ankle injury.

To the delight of the Indian Wells crowd, Fritz was passed fit to play, with concern soon shifting to his opponent, Nadal.

The World No.4 suffered a pectoral injury in his semi-final victory against Carlos Alcaraz and the issue appeared to be causing the 35-year-old plenty of trouble against Fritz.

The 21-time grand slam champion - who came into the final unbeaten in 20 matches this year - found himself uncharacteristically down 3-0, struggling for any sort of consistency on his serve.

Nadal did his best to dig deep and try to remain in the set, but soon found himself 5-3 down, despite managing to get a break back from Fritz.

Taylor Fritz (left) and Rafael Nadal both went into their Indian Wells final under injury clouds. Pic: AAP
Taylor Fritz (left) and Rafael Nadal both went into their Indian Wells final under injury clouds. Pic: AAP

However, the Spaniard handed the initiative straight back to Fritz who once again punished the Nadal serve to take the opening set.

Nadal then asked for both the physio and the doctor at the end of the set as a stunned silence fell over the crowd.

The chair umpire then announced that the Spaniard had taken a medical timeout as he left the court to receive treatment.

The dramatic scenes left tennis fans concerned for Nadal on social media.

Taylor Fritz holds off brave Rafa Nadal to claim title

Nadal came out more energised in the second, despite dropping the opening game as Fritz looked to ram home his advantage.

The Spaniard finally managed to hold serve, before breaking Fritz to take a 2-1 lead after it appeared at one stage as if he may not be able to finish the contest.

The match took yet another twist when Fritz grabbed the break back and eventually moved within one game of winning the title.

After going down 5-4, Nadal subsequently received more treatment on his injury on the side of the court.

The Spaniard could be seen grimacing as he lay face down while his physio worked on the injury.

Nadal had to hold serve to keep himself in the contest and had to dig deep to win a gripping rally at 15-30 down.

The 35-year-old's fighting mentality was on full display as he somehow managed to hold serve to get the second set back to 5-5.

Seen here, USA's Taylor Fritz hitting a big forehand at Indian Wells.
USA's Taylor Fritz hits a big forehand at Indian Wells. Pic: Getty

Fritz held off a concerted push from Nadal to go up 6-5 and again put the onus back onto Nadal.

The 21-time major winner came up big on his service game, barely giving the American a sniff as he forced a second set tiebreak.

Fritz began like he meant business with a booming forehand winner helping him out to an early 2-0 lead.

Nadal continued to hang on as the big-hitting American tried to muscle his way to the title, with some classy net play from the Spaniard levelling up the tiebreak.

The 35-year-old's defensive prowess was on full display as he claimed the rally of the tiebreak, before squandering the chance to go 6-4 up with a wild forehand volley.

Fatigue looked to have set in as an unforced error from Nadal handed the initiative to Fritz and the American took full advantage with another massive forehand to claim the title in style.

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