Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fritz, Brown to meet in rematch of Sacramento thriller

No. 3 seed Dustin Brown of Germany volleys during his three-set
win over 17-year-old U.S. phenom Frances Tiafoe on Saturday
in the semifinals of the Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger.
Photo by Paul Bauman
    FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- If today's match between Dustin Brown and Taylor Fritz is anywhere near as dramatic as their last one, local fans are in for a treat.
   One week after meeting in the second round of the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger, Brown and Fritz today reached the final of the Fairfield $50,000 Men's Pro Challenger at In Shape: Fairfield Rancho Solano. It will be Brown's second straight match against a 17-year-old American phenom.
   The third-seeded Brown, a 30-year-old German, overpowered Frances Tiafoe 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in a highly entertaining match.
   Fritz, from Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area, dispatched fourth-seeded Blaz Rola of Slovenia 6-3, 6-3. It was the most games the 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Fritz, who extended his Challenger winning streak to nine matches, has lost in the tournament.
   Fritz, the reigning U.S. Open boys champion and No. 1 junior in the world, overcame a sore shoulder and three match points to stun Brown 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7) in 2 hours, 25 minutes in Sacramento en route to his first Challenger title. He had lost in the first round at Aptos, Calif., in August in his only previous Challenger.     
Taylor Fritz, another 17-year-old U.S. sensation, will play Brown in today's
Fairfield final. Fritz is shown in Friday's quarterfinals. Photo by Paul Bauman
   That was Fritz's last tournament as an amateur. He turned pro before the U.S. Open.
   Fritz's mother (Kathy May), father (Guy Fritz) and uncle (Harry Fritz) all played professionally.  May climbed to No. 10 in the world and played in three Grand Slam quarterfinals. Guy is one of Taylor's coaches.
   Brown has a German mother and Jamaican father. Dustin was born in Germany and lived there until 1996, when he moved to Jamaica to begin his pro career. His parents bought him a camper van that he used to travel to tournaments in Europe from 2004 to 2007.
   Nicknamed "Dreddy," Brown has dreadlocks that cascade down his back almost to his waist. He wears sleeveless shirts and sports a tattoo of his father on the side of his stomach.
   Brown shocked Rafael Nadal on Centre Court at Wimbledon in the second round this year to improve to 2-0 lifetime against the 14-time Grand Slam champion.
Tiafoe rips a backhand against Brown on Saturday.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   The match between the 110th-ranked Brown and No. 255 Tiafoe had it all -- except long rallies. Brown, pencil thin at 6-foot-5 (1.96 meters) and 172 pounds (78 kilograms), has a massive serve and takes advantage of it by, in a rarity these days, serve-and-volleying frequently (even on his second serve). Tiafoe, a sculpted 6-foot-2 (1.88 meters), is no slouch in the serving department himself. 
   Brown hammered 16 aces at up to 129 mph (207.6 kph) on a speed gun that appeared to be slow. He won one game in the first set at love on four aces, the last two on second serves registering 126 and 124 mph (202.8 and 199.6 kph).
   Taifoe had 10 aces and one double fault.
   The athletic Brown slugged leaping, swinging volleys (some that even went in), sliced fiendish drop shots, skidded to stops on the hardcourt as if on clay back home and occasionally did the splits.
   After Brown held for 1-1 in the second set on a backhand stop volley with severe backspin, he smiled widely at Tiafoe, who yelled in frustration, "I hate him!" Responded Brown sweetly, "You know you love me."
   After saving two break points at 2-2 in the third set, Brown retrieved a lob by hitting a "tweener" and followed with a spectacular running forehand cross-court passing shot. He reacted by simultaneously leaping in the air, pumping his fist and roaring in triumph.
   Tiafoe never won another game but had his own highlight-reel shots in the match. In the first set,  he swatted a running forehand cross-court passing shot that left Brown shaking his head in amazement.
   Tiafoe also displayed an impressive return, often lacing winners at Brown's feet at the net.
   Brown complained repeatedly about line calls, as usual, and about a fan at one corner of the court  applauding his mistakes and allegedly saying "Good shot, Frances" after Brown errors. Even Tiafoe eventually got annoyed at the man and told him to be quiet.
At In Shape: Fairfield Rancho Solano
Singles semifinals
   Dustin Brown (3), Germany, def. Frances Tiafoe, United States, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.
   Taylor Fritz, United States, def. Blaz Rola (4), Slovenia, 6-3, 6-3.
   Doubles semifinal
   Carsten Ball, Australia, and Dustin Brown, Germany, def. Mitchell Krueger and Tennys Sandgren (4), United States, 3-6, 6-3 [10-8].
Today's schedule
Stadium Court
(Starting at noon)
   Dustin Brown (3), Germany, vs. Taylor Fritz, United States.
   Carsten Ball, Australia, and Dustin Brown (1), Germany, vs. Johan Brunstrom, Sweden, and Frederik Nielsen (2), Denmark.


  1. Good article. I didn't get a chance to see the Rola/Donaldson match but I was expecting more from Rola against Fritz after it appears he destroyed Donaldson. (Unless Donaldson was slightly injured or just had a really bad day or Rola had a great day). But Rola's numerous unforced errors lost that match against Fritz. Fritz on the other hand has a consistent first serve and hits hard groundstrokes and makes few unforced errors and has a healthy attitude on the court. It appears that Fritz has risen to the top of the American young guns and I hope takes it today. I really like this kid.

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