Indian Wells title comes with no asterisk, says Fritz

INDIAN WELLS, California : The absence of world number one Novak Djokovic from the Indian Wells field will not diminish the achievement of the eventual winner of the tournament, defending champion Taylor Fritz told Reuters.

One year ago the Southern California native captured the biggest title of his career in a draw that also did not feature the Serb, who is barred from entering the U.S. due to his refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I see it as kind of the same as last year,” Fritz said on the sidelines of a Maestro Dobel Tequila event on Wednesday.

“No Novak, but at the end of the day no one is going to look back at this tournament 10, 20 years from now and be like, oh well there’s an asterisk there because these people weren’t playing,” he said.

“If you win Indian Wells, you win Indian Wells.”

Fritz, however, acknowledged that Djokovic’s no show does “open up opportunities for others” considering the 22-time Grand Slam winner has hoisted the trophy five times.

World number five Fritz, the top ranked American man, said he is trying not to put too much pressure on himself to defend his title at the event he grew up attending and will take it “one match at a time.”

And he has nothing but good memories from last year, when he overcame an ankle injury and Spanish great Rafa Nadal in the final.

“Last year winning this tournament, it really couldn’t have happened in a better place,” he said.

“It was such an amazing moment and I have a lot of confidence playing here. It feels like home.”

While the Djokovic, Nadal and the now-retired Roger Federer had won 13 of 14 titles from 2004 to 2017, Fritz said players were now emerging out of the shadows of tennis’ Big Three and he would not be surprised to see one of his countrymen claim the Masters 1000 title.

“We have so many good American players,” he said.

“Tommy (Paul) so far this year has been playing amazing. Frances (Tiafoe) also is going to have a great year. I think Sebi (Korda) is going to have a great year.

“It’s exciting times.”

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