Taylor Fritz

Taylor Fritz Still One of America’s Great Hopes

Taylor Fritz is one of the most promising tennis players that America has to offer, although he has endured a difficult period since his emergence on the ATP World Tour. His struggles continued on the grass of Stuttgart, with the young American failing to make it past the first qualifying round. Fritz has spent a few months away from the game, but on his return has lost in the first round of the Surbiton Challenger in addition to Stuttgart in matches which he entered as heavy favourite. The 19-year-old has time on his side, but he will be keen to prove that his breakout season in the sport was not an anomaly.

Fritz’s best career performance came in just his third ATP tournament, with his run in Memphis the first appearance in a final for eight years by an 18-year-old. He ultimately lost to Kei Nishikori, a mainstay of the top ten in the rankings, but Fritz’s youthful exuberance impressed the tennis world. Fritz consolidated this showing with a quarter-final run in Acapulco, eventually succumbing to compatriot Sam Querrey, and a slightly weaker end to the year could not take the shine of a remarkable season.

Fritz stormed to a career-high ranking of 53 as an 18-year-old, prompting inevitable assertions that he was the next great American hope and a future Grand Slam winner. Of course, few would have expected him to be challenging for those titles while still at a very young age, but the latest tennis odds of Fritz being 250/1 to win Wimbledon accurately reflect how his development has slightly stagnated. Incidentally, the leading American players that Fritz was expected to sit alongside sooner rather than later, Jack Sock and John Isner, are odds of 100/1 to triumph on the grass in London.

American Slam success, in the men’s game at least, does not appear to be on the immediate horizon. However, Jelena Ostapenko’s remarkable run to take the French Open singles title as an unseeded player highlights how a great couple of weeks can change everything. Fritz is a great couple of weeks away from shooting up the rankings. It was his adventures in Memphis that propelled him up the rankings, and it was never really expected that Fritz would consolidate all of those ranking points the following year. He made the last sixteen in 2017’s iteration of the tournament at Memphis, which is still a commendable showing.

Fritz’s success in Memphis and Acapulco, combined with his scope for growth, means that expectations are high of the young American. Pressure can be telling, with perhaps the relative grass-court experience of veteran Marco Chiudinelli the difference in Stuttgart between success and failure. However, the emergence of other young Americans will take the spotlight off Fritz, and this could be a constructive development in his progress.

Frances Tiafoe has soared up the rankings and has held his own against Roger Federer. The big-serving Reilly Opelka reached the quarter-finals of the grass-court challenger in Surbiton and his game should suit the green surface. Opelka looks on course to break the top 100 soon, where other young Americans Jared Donaldson and Ernesto Escobedo already reside with Tiafoe. The future is bright for American tennis, and Fritz will inevitably work his way back up the ranks. With such a deep source of talent for American fans to root for, Fritz should be able to play with less pressure and recapture the heights of 2016.

Bjorn Frantangelo Impresses Against Novak Djokovic – Passing Shots with Kevin Craig

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

  • At No. 149 in the world, Bjorn Fratangelo became the lowest ranked player to take a set off of Novak Djokovic since No. 174 Nicolas Almagro, who was returning from injury at the time, won the second set in their meeting in Rome in May of 2015. The last time Djokovic lost a first set to a player outside of the Top 100 was when he dropped the first set to No. 158 Lleyton Hewitt in the 2012 Olympics.
  • 18 year old Americans Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe did battle in the first round in Indian Wells with Tiafoe wining in three sets. It was the first all-teen matchup in Indian Wells since Marin Cilic defeated Kei Nishikori in 2008.
  • With Borna Coric and Alex Zverev reaching the third round in Indian Wells, it marks the first time since 2007 that multiple teenagers made the third round of the event. Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Evgeny Korolev were the players who did so.
  • For the first time since 2010 in Indian Wells, no German woman reached the third round of the event.
  • The No. 1 doubles seed in Indian Wells lost in the first round for the first time since 1998 as Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau lost to Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski, 10-6 in a match tiebreak.
  • The final of the Jonkoping challenger lasted two hours and 44 minutes, making it the longest final on the challenger circuit in 2016. Andrey Golubev took home the title by beating Karen Khachanov, 6-7(9), 7-6(5), 7-6(4), saving four match points along the way. The four match points saved was the most in a challenger final since Tim Smyczek saved four in the Tiburon Challenger in 2015.
  • The challenger event in Santiago saw a 19-year age difference in the first round as 38 year old Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo took on 19 year old Christian Garin. Ramirez Hidalgo came out with the victory in three sets.
  • Facundo Bagnis became the first player to successfully defend a challenger title in 2016, winning the title in Santiago for the second straight year, also making it three titles in four tries in the Chilean capital.

Taylor Fritz, Dominic Thiem Have Historic Weeks – Passing Shots with Kevin Craig

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

  • Taylor Fritz’s run to the final in Memphis included numerous impressive stats. Fritz became the youngest American to make an ATP semifinal since Michael Chang made the Wembley semifinals in 1989. Fritz also joined an exclusive list of Americans who had reached a final while 18 years old, including Andy Roddick, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, and Chang. Fritz also became the first 18 year old overall to reach an ATP final since Kei Nishikori, who beat Fritz in the final in Memphis, made the final in Delray Beach in 2008.
  • Dominic Thiem’s win over Rafael Nadal in Buenos Aires saw Thiem become only the third player to save match points in a win over Nadal on clay. The previous two were Nicolas Lapentti and David Ferrer.
  • The loss to Thiem moves Nadal’s record against Top 50 players in 2016 to 0-3, while his record against players outside the Top 50 is 6-0.
  • Only six active players on the WTA have been able to reach a Top 10 ranking at a younger age than Belinda Bencic. Those six are Martina Hingis, Nicole Vaidisova, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Caroline Wozniacki, with Vaidisova being the only one of that failed to reach a No. 1 world ranking. Bencic clinched a spot in the Top 10 this week with her run to the final in St. Petersburg.
  • Nishikori’s win in Memphis made it the fourth straight year that he has won the event. Nishikori joins Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Nadal as the only other active players with four-peats on the ATP World Tour.
  • During his title run in Rotterdam, Martin Klizan became the first player on the ATP to save match points in multiple matches en route to the final since Rajeev Ram did so in Newport in July of 2015.
  • Marco Cecchinato’s struggles on the ATP World Tour continue as he has now lost 11 straight tour level matches to start his career. This week in Buenos Aires, he was downed by Juan Monaco in straight sets.

Five American Teens Playing This Week In Memphis – Passing Shots with Kevin Craig

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

  • Victor Estrella Burgos became just the seventh player on the ATP to win a title after turning 35 years old since 1980 as he won his second title in Quito in a row this week. Jaime Fillol, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, Fabrice Santoro, Tommy Haas, and Ivo Karlovic were the previous six to do so.
  • Dustin Brown reached his first career ATP semifinal in Montpellier this week after going 0-8 in ATP quarterfinal matches to start off his career.
  • Paolo Lorenzi earned his first Top 20 win in a completed match in Quito this week after defeating Bernard Tomic. Lorenzi was previously 0-22 against Top 20 opponents.
  • In Memphis this week, five American teens are playing in an ATP main draw for the first time since the 2006 US Open. Tommy Paul, Frances Tiafoe, and Taylor Fritz received wild cards and were joined by Michael Mmoh and Jared Donaldson via qualifying.
  • Alex Zverev became only the second player on the ATP this season to reach the semifinals of both the singles and doubles at the same event. In Montpellier, he made the semifinals in singles before losing to Paul-Henri Mathieu, while also making the final of the doubles event with his brother Mischz Zverev, losing out to Mate Pavic and Michael Venus. Benoit Paire was the previous player to make the semifinals of both the singles and doubles at the same event, doing so in Chennai in the first week of the year.
  • Kyle Edmund and Daniel Evans played in only the second all-British challenger final, the first of which that took place outside of Great Britain. The previous all-British challenger final took place in Nottingham in 2005 with Alex Bogdanovic beating Mark Hilton. Edmund won the final with Evans in straight sets,
  • 19 year old Blake Mott of Australia won his first challenger title this week after only having three previous challenger main draw wins and being ranked outside of the Top 700.

Djokovic Wins 60th Title, Reaches Final of Every Tournament in 52 Weeks – Passing Shots with Kevin Craig

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

  • In Doha, Novak Djokovic was able to win the title (the 60th of his career) and reach his 16th consecutive final, making it so that in the past 52 weeks, Djokovic has been to the final of every tournament he has played. Djokovic did not drop a set all week and was only taken beyond 6-3 twice, including a 6-1, 6-2 win over Rafael Nadal in the final. In a simple recipe for success for the week, Djokovic won 77% of his first serve points and broke his opponents a total of 20 times.
  • Victoria Azarenka won her first title since August 2013 as she defeated Angelique Kerber in the final in Brisbane. Azarenka was not taken beyond 6-3 in a set all week as she was able to break her opponents 29 times. The win sets up Azarenka for a Top 16 seed at the Australian Open.
  • Stan Wawrinka won his third consecutive title in Chennai by defeating Borna Coric 6-3, 7-5. Wawrinka did not drop a set in four matches and was only broken once all week as he hit 41 aces. Wawrinka is now 8-0 in titles since the start of the 2014 season, including his wins at the 2014 Australian Open and the 2015 French Open. Before 2014, Wawrinka was just 4-9 in finals.
  • Taylor Fritz won his third challenger title by defeating Dudi Sela 7-6, 6-2 in Happy Valley. The win made Fritz’s career challenger record 22-5 and was his fourth Top 100 win. Fritz’s ranking at the start of the 2015 season was 1151, but this win will boost his ranking to about 154, just shy of a 1000 spot improvement from a year ago.
  • Sloane Stephens won her second career title by defeating Julia Goerges 7-5, 6-2, while fellow American Alison Riske made the final in Shenzhen, losing out to Agnieszka Radwanska. Previously to this week, no American woman had made the final of a tournament in the first week of the season since Lindsay Davenport made the final of Auckland in 2008.
  • Also in Doha, Illya Marchenko made his first ATP semifinal since 2010 in St. Petersburg. Along the way, Marchenko was able to beat David Ferrer, Teymuraz Gabashvili, and Jeremy Chardy. The win against Ferrer was his first Top 10 win in five tries.
  • Thomas Fabbiano won his first ATP main draw matches as he made the quarterfinals in Chennai after making it through qualies. In the second round, Fabbiano beat Gilles Muller 6-4, 7-5, and managed to break the big server four times, despite Muller hitting 14 aces and winning 79% of his first serve points. The quarterfinal run will allow Fabbiano to reach a new career high ranking of 142.
  • Go Soeda made the final of the Bangkok Challenger, making 2016 the 11th consecutive year that he has made a challenger final, dating back to 2006. He fell to Mikhail Youzhny, 6-3, 6-4, as Youzhny continues his attempt to rejoin the Top 100.
  • In Brisbane, Samantha Crawford made her first WTA semifinal in just her fifth main draw appearance. Crawford got her first two Top-25 wins by defeating Belinda Bencic and Andrea Petkovic. Throughout her qualifying and main draw matches, the big hitting American hit 64 aces and won 73% of her first serve points as she prepares for her appearance at the Australian Open via a wild card.