Basilashvili Holds Nerve To Beat Fritz
After a season of discontent at ATP Masters 1000 level, Nikoloz Basilashvili is one win away from the biggest title of his career after fending off Taylor Fritz in the BNP Paribas Open semi-finals Saturday.
The Georgian, who had suffered five first-round losses from six appearances at Masters 1000 level this year heading into Indian Wells, saved three sets points in the first set and all seven break points he faced – including two in the final game – to defeat the 23-year-old American 7-6(5), 6-3 to reach his first final at this level.
Basilashvili had to wait until the sixth game of the second set to earn a break point chance but capitalised fully to break Fritz for a match-breaking 4-2 lead. In Sunday’s final he will play in-form British left-hander Cameron Norrie.
BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) October 17, 2021
The 29-year-old World No. 36 swung for the fences from the back of the court, ripping 26 winners (including 14 off the forehand) against 32 unforced errors.
“It means a lot [to make my first Masters 1000 final] especially at Indian Wells, which people call it like a fifth Grand Slam… to get through so many matches is very important,” Basilashvili said. “I’m at the top of my game now and feeling the best.
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“This was my first time in a Masters 1000 semi-final so I was a little bit tight. I just tried to get rid of [the tension] as much as I could because if I just focus on my game I can play good tennis.”
Although he won just 68 per cent of first-serve points, Basilashvili’s ability to dig in and win extended points, coupled with a 59 per cent winning percentage on second serves, proved telling.
Fritz acknowledged that Basilashvili’s power made it difficult for him to convert his break chances. “I had a lot of chances. It's tough because I got all those chances and break points kind of from being solid and him missing," Fritz said. "It's kind of tough on those break points then to just pull the trigger on balls that I didn't really feel comfortable with. I didn't feel like I had good looks to kind of pull it on a big point.
“His backhand, he definitely hits harder than anybody on tour. The way that it comes through the court so hard and flat and deep, nothing you can really do. Usually I'm pretty good at fighting off the balls at the backhand. It was a bit tough today. He hit a lot of good backhand lines.”
As he looks to avenge his crushing 6-0, 6-3 loss to Norrie in Rotterdam earlier this year, Basilashvili know he faces a stern test. “He’s very uncomfortable to play and he’s in really good shape right now. He’s playing a very interesting game.”
Basilashvili has won five ATP Tour titles, with his first three coming at the 500 level.