Who would have expected Taylor Fritz and Nikoloz Basilashvili to square off in the Indian Wells semifinals, especially considering that the two players were facing Alex Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarters? Yet here we are, with the American and the Georgian facing the match of their lives on Saturday night.
Fritz had a monster tournament thus far, navigating through a nightmarish draw and doing it in the most impressive fashion. In the first three rounds he defeated Nakashima, Berrettini and Sinner without losing a set and without losing more than 4 games in a set! In the quarters he came back from match point down in the decider against Alex Zverev and edged the German 4-6 6-3 7-6.
Similar to Fritz, Basilashvili is coming after the win of his life (although he still claimed beating Federer in Doha was bigger), a 6-4 2-6 6-4 victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas. He previously got past Eubanks, Ramos (lost set) and Khachanov. The Georgian actually looked to be down and out in the 2nd round when Ramos served for the match, but upped his game at the right moment and pulled through.
Fritz leads the H2H 2-1, all meetings taking place on outdoor hard courts. The pair actually played twice this year and split the meetings, with Basilashvili winning in Doha and Fritz taking revenge just a week later in Dubai.
Listen, Basilashvili is almost unplayable when he is at the top of his game. Problem is, he’s so inconsistent, mercurial, and has so little room for error, that he almost never maintains his maximum level for the duration of a whole match (let alone tournament). We know that.
You would think that reaching a Masters semifinal and beating Tsitsipas on the way means Basilashvili found some stellar consistency. However, that’s not quite true.
Sure, you don’t reach this stage by playing poorly, but I wouldn’t say Basilashvili was that great either. He had plenty of down moments in all of his matches, and his win against Tsitsipas wasn’t as impressive as it might seem. Tsitsipas was bad. He’s been pretty bad for his standards during the whole US hard court swing to be honest, but even more so in this tournament. He really struggled all week (possibly being sick), having to fight back against Fognini and De Minaur in the earlier rounds, playing very passive and making errors. It was more of the same against Basilashvili, and eventually this time around Tsitsipas fell a little short.
Fact is, Basilashvili didn’t put in some spectacular performance against the Greek ace, making no less than 43 unforced errors in a rather short three setter. He was there to be beat, but Tsitsipas was unable to pull the trigger, and the Georgian managed to crawl over the finish line.
Fritz on the other hand has been pretty much flawless in this tournament. He was outplayed only by Zverev in the first set of their quarterfinal, but once Fritz got into a groove, he was the better player. Even when trailing by a break for almost the entire third set, he looked superior to Zverev – the player who was the overwhelming favorite to win it all this week. Eventually he got lucky enough to snatch the break back at the last moment (with some help from Zverev) and never looked back.
I’ve been highly impressed with Fritz in this tournament, he’s been so consistent, constructing the points masterfully, being mentally strong, and by the end of the Zverev match he was playing exceptional tennis. He’ll come into this one with great rhythm, form and confidence.
Based on what we have seen from these two players this week, Fritz is the clear cut favorite. There’s no question he’s playing better and more consistent tennis than Basilashvili (better than all other semifinalists in fact), he’s probably the better player overall too, and has a superior serve which can earn him crucial free points on these slow Indian Wells hard courts (while Basilashvili will have to work harder).
With all the above in mind, I’m confidently backing Fritz to reach the final. This will happen if the two players perform at similar levels to how they did so far. Prediction: Taylor Fritz – Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4 6-3.