Annacone pulls back the curtain on Fritz’s unforgettable Indian Wells win | TBEN | Tennis

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The third episode of Netflix Breakpoint takes fans behind the scenes of a dramatic moment for American Taylor Fritz before the biggest game of his career.

The California native suffered a bizarre ankle injury while warming up for the 2022 BNP Paribas Open final. Fritz struggled to put any weight on his right foot, describing it as “one of the worst pains I’ve ever felt” .

Fritz’s coaching team, which consists of Michael Russell, Paul Annacone and physio Wolfgang Oswald, advised the American not to play the championship game to ensure that his ankle is not further damaged.

Fritz chose to play and defeated all-time Rafael Nadal in straight sets to win his first ATP Masters 1000 title. Annacone spoke to ATPTour.com about his fond and perhaps stressful memories of that day.

“I remember walking back to the players’ lounge before the game and Taylor turned to us and said, ‘Guys, I’m really sorry I’m such a nuisance, but I just don’t want to be able to play at night to sleep when I’m not on the field,” Annacone recalls. “I think Michael and I said, ‘Taylor, it’s your body. Do what you think you should do, but we’ll tell you what we think you should do.’”

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The then 24-year-old had already made a decision. He couldn’t fathom the thought of not going onto the field with a chance to win the tournament he grew up dreaming of winning. Annacone arrived in the players’ box and baked in the desert sun as he watched Fritz beat the Spaniard 6-3, 7-6(5).

“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Annacone said. “My big thing was I didn’t want him to walk on the field and walk off again after one game. At first he said, ‘If it hurts, I just walk off the track’. And I was like, ‘No, there are 17,000 people there, I don’t want you to just walk off the field! Let’s make an informed decision about that.” Once I saw him move after being treated I felt like he could play, I just didn’t know how well.

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“Once he came on court I felt the worst that could happen is he’s not going to play well, lose 2-6, 1-6 and get a sore ankle.”

Although Fritz capped off his dream run at Indian Wells with the trophy, Annacone admitted he would still speak up if a similar injury happened.

“I consider it a great time and I would still do the same thing,” Annacone said. “I would say the exact same thing and advise him not to play. My biggest fear with that sort of thing is that the player won’t learn the right message. Just because you do it this time doesn’t mean you do it all the time.

Annacone has worn many hats within pro tennis. He rose to No. 12 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and won 14 tour-level doubles titles before coaching legends Pete Sampras and Roger Federer. He’s been around the block and seen everything. An experience Annacone will never forget was when Sampras clinched his seventh Wimbledon title, despite being benched for hours due to injury for two weeks.

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“I was with Pete when he won Wimbledon in 2000, which broke the record for all-time majors and he couldn’t get an off day until the day before the final,” Annacone said. “He had something going on with his tibia. He didn’t even warm up before games. He would walk the field, play a game, and do nothing until two days later. At the time, it was the right thing for Pete to do, he was trying to break the all-time record.

“As long as the player learns from that stuff then I’m fine. Taylor gets stubborn, he’ll do that and then think that’s the norm. That’s what I didn’t want to get out of Indian Wells, and I don’t think so. I think he learned a lot about himself.”

Fritz’s first Masters 1000 title? Check. A lesson learned for the American? Annacone hopes that has been ticked off as well.

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