Taylor Fritz has proven to the tennis world that not only is he currently the best American in the sport, but he is one of the best overall talents on the ATP Tour. After winning his first Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells back in March, the 24-year-old announced his goal to crack the world’s top 10. Nearly seven months later, Fritz can check that goal off of the bucket list.
Fritz defeated his compatriot Frances Tiafoe 7-6(3) 7-6(2) in the ATP Tokyo Open, a 500-level event on Sunday which vaulted the Californian into the top 10 for the first time. Fritz was ranked #8 in the world on Monday morning. Winning the title, however, was not nearly as straightforward as the American made it seem at times last week.
Fritz wins in Tokyo
In late September, Frtiz was forced to quarantine in Seoul for seven days after testing positive for COVID-19. Although he had to pull out of the Korea Open, a mandatory seven-day quarantine release lined up exactly on the day the American was set to play his opening round match at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships.
Fritz took the two-hour flight from Seoul to Tokyo on the morning of his first-round match against James Duckworth. After spending over a week off the court, Fritz was able to grind his way past the Australian 6-2 6-7(2) 6-1. It was Fritz’s first win at the Japan Open in his fourth attempt. The American went on to beat world #253 Hiroki Moriya 6-1 3-6 6-4 before receiving a quarterfinal walkover from Nick Kyrgios.
Fritz was able to raise his level in his semifinal match against Denis Shapovalov, coming from a break down in the third set to beat the Canadian for just the second time in six attempts. He was able to cap off an importable week with the aforementioned victory in the Tokyo final over Tiafoe. In what was a very tightly contested match, Fritz was able to hit his first serve consistently in key moments. Michael Russell, the main coach for the American, called Fritz’s improbable victory in Tokyo “one of the best efforts in sports”.
Fritz’s career year in 2022
The ATP Tokyo Open was Fritz’s third title of the season this season, alongside his Masters 1000 victory at Indian Wells and a victory on the grass in Eastbourne in June. The American holds a 2022 record of 41-17, including a 28-11 mark on hard courts. He has advanced to the quarterfinals or further in eight of the 17 tournaments he has competed in this season.
The 24, soon-to-be 25-year-old, has wins over the likes of Rafae; Nadal, Andrey Rublev (twice), Cameron Norrie (twice), Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Kyrgios (twice) this season. He holds a record of 14-6 against players in the top 30. Fritz started the season ranked #23 in the world. His rise to the aforementioned position of world #8 is a testament to both his consistency and his ability to play his best tennis in the biggest moments. Fritz is the first American to crack the world’s top 10 since Jack Sock back in November of 2017.
Nitto ATP Finals chances
When Fritz publicly announced his goal of entering the world’s top 10 back in March, he knew the terrific opportunity to make the Nitto ATP Year End Finals that would come along with it. After a very disappointing first-round exit at the US Open, the ranking points gained from Fritz’s title in Tokyo will go a long way in potentially sending the American to compete with the world’s best.
Fritz currently sits in seventh in the ATP Live Race to Turin, though, with just eight spots granted annually, his current margins are thin. Carlos Alcaraz, Rafael Nadal, Casper Ruud, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Novak Djokovic (Grand Slam champion’s gain automatic qualification if they finish in the top 20) have already earned their spots in the 2022 ATP Finals. The final three spots will likely come from the group of Medvedev, Rublev, Auger-Aliassime, Hurkacz, and Fritz, though players such as Norrie, Pablo Carreno Busta, and Matteo Berrettini have an outside chance of qualifying with a title at the Paris Masters.
Fritz is scheduled to play at the Stockholm Open during the week of the 17th followed by the Erste Bank Open in Vienna. He will then compete at the Rolex Paris Masters 1000 during the first week of November. If Fritz plays well over the next four weeks, the American will find himself in Turin for the ATP Finals. With that said, he certainly has work to do.
Embed from Getty Images