If you made your way to Indian Wells last week for the BNP Paribas Masters Open, and had never heard of Taylor Fritz, you’ve surely been introduced to him by now. Currently ranked at #136 (and climbing), Fritz has a lot going on in his life these days. At 19 years old, he’s been a professional tennis player since 2015, a husband to Racquel Pedraza since last summer, and a father of a young son since January. That’s quite a tall order for the up and coming Fritz, who nearly reached the fourth round at Indian Wells this week with spirited play that no doubt earned him a whole new pack of Fritzers, or Team Taylor, or whatever his loyal followers will inevitably be dubbed. Once known as the “youngest ever to…,” he’s now looking forward and ready to use Indian Wells as a stepping stone to bigger and greater achievements.
“This is where I’m from,” Fritz said at a press gathering last week. “Just being from San Diego my whole life and having a lot of family that lives out here in the desert, it’s like a second home to me.”
Those who follow the youth movement in US Tennis need no such introduction, because the superlatives for Fritz often place him among pretty distinguished company. At the end of 2015, he was the top ranked Junior and the ITF Junior World Champion. He reached two junior grand slam finals – the first, at Roland Garros, he fell to countryman Tommy Paul, but months later in New York he bested Paul with nearly the exact same score at the junior US Open.
Shortly thereafter, Fritz turned to the pro ranks, and in short time the product of a tennis family (mother Kathy May, reached WTA #10 in 1977) catapulted into the Top 200, climbing nearly one thousand slots in his first pro season to #177, then soon became the youngest player in the ATP Top 100 in 2016. Reaching an ATP final in Memphis, only his third event on tour, Taylor became the youngest ATP finalist since Kei Nishikori in 2008, and the youngest American finalist since Michael Chang in 1989. Fritz’s ascension in the ranks introduced him to competitors most teenagers can only dream about, facing off against names like Nishikori, David Ferrer, Stan Wawrinka, and Roger Federer. But when he arrived in the desert for the BNP Paribas Indian Wells Open, he’d never defeated a top 10 player.
Enter the aggressive baseliner Marin Cilic, the sixth seed and former US Open champion, and second round opponent for wild card Fritz. “It’s going to be one of those matches where I’m going to have to just control my service games,” Fritz said leading up to the much-anticipated showdown, “and then, when I get the chances on his serve, I need to take them.”
The teen phenom did exactly that. In what became a battle of power from the service line to the net, Fritz recovered from dropping the first set to triumph in the next two frames, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. In front of a boisterous crowd, Fritz had checked another notch on his impressive ascension on the ATP Tour and, despite a fourth round exit, will almost assuredly enjoy a comfortable jump in next week’s ATP Tour rankings.
The 13th-ranked American on the ATP Tour, Taylor and countryman Jack Sock (the top billed US player) impressed international Grand Slam audiences in New York and Australia last year with two thrilling five set marathons, a sign that competitive American tennis stars are on the rise.
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