Monday, October 12, 2015

Fritz wins first Challenger title in battle of U.S. teens

Taylor Fritz, a 17-year-old wild card, beat seventh-seeded Jared Don-
aldson, 19, to win the Sacramento Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Power and poise could take Taylor Fritz a long way in professional tennis.
   Perhaps all the way to the top.
   In a battle of American teenagers, Fritz outlasted seventh-seeded Jared Donaldson 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 on Sunday to win the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger at the Natomas Racquet Club.
   Fritz, the top-ranked junior in the world, joined Nick Kyrgios of Australia and Alexander Zverev of Germany as 17-year-olds to win a Challenger in recent years. Kyrgios, now 20, is ranked 32nd among men, and the 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Zverev, 18, is 80th.
   "It's an honor, but the main thing is not to let it get to my head and not to think that I've made it," Fritz, who will turn 18 on Oct. 28, told Mike Cation in an interview for "I'm not sure where this win puts me (in the rankings). Maybe 350 (actually No. 335, up from No. 694).
   "By no means does that mean I've made it," Fritz added with a chuckle. "I've got a lot of work to do, and I know that. Hopefully, if I keep working, I can be compared more next to those guys."
   Fritz was playing in only his second Challenger. He lost to Mischa Zverev, a 28-year-old left-hander from Germany formerly ranked in the top 50, in the first round of the $100,000 Comerica Bank Challenger in Aptos, Calif., in August.
Donaldson said Fritz "played the big points better than I did."
Photo by Paul Bauman

   That was Fritz's last tournament before turning pro. He then won the U.S. Open boys singles title.
   At 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters), Fritz has a big serve and groundstrokes and moves well. He lives in Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area and trains in Carson, near Los Angeles.
   Fritz's mother (Kathy May), father (Guy Fritz) and uncle (Harry Fritz) all played professionally. Kathy reached No. 10 in the world and played in three Grand Slam quarterfinals. Guy is one of Taylor's coaches.
   Taylor, a wild card in Sacramento, almost lost in the second round. He survived three match points in a 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7) victory over Dustin Brown, 30, of Germany.
   Brown, who has a German mother and Jamaican father, stunned Rafael Nadal on Centre Court in the second round at Wimbledon this year to improve to 2-0 against the 14-time Grand Slam singles champion.
   Fritz saved 13 of 14 break points against Brown and 15 of 16 against Donaldson.
   "It shows I need to not get myself in so many tight situations, but I think it shows that I play the big points really well," said Fritz, who suffered a quadriceps or groin injury late in the second set against Donaldson. "I compete pretty hard, and I'm pretty mentally strong in tight situations."
(Left to right) Doubles runners-up Dustin Brown and Daniel Brands of Germany
pose with champions Blaz Kavcic and Grega Zemlja of Slovenia and tournament
director Brian Martinez. Photo by Paul Bauman
   As Donaldson, 19, told the crowd after the final, "He played the big points better than I did."
   Donaldson, a Providence, R.I., product who trains in Irvine, Calif., ousted top-seeded Denis Kudla, 23, of Tampa, Fla., in the semifinals. Donaldson had little pressure in that match as the lower-ranked and younger player, but the situation was reversed against Fritz.
   The pressure on the 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Donaldson showed as he was broken in the first game of the match at love and in the last game. Donaldson, who has devastating groundstrokes, sent a routine forehand long on Fritz's first championship point.
   Fritz collected $14,400. Donaldson, who turned pro in August 2014, received $8,480 and improved nine spots in the world rankings to No. 144.
   How will Fritz, who is scheduled to play a qualifier in the first round of the $50,000 Fairfield (Calif.) Men's Pro Challenger on Tuesday, celebrate his first Challenger title?
   "I think the best thing to do is go to In-N-Out," Fritz said of the popular fast-food hamburger chain. "I'm disappointed to hear what some of my colleagues say about it, but I'm a pretty firm supporter that nothing comes close, so that's probably where I'll be tonight."
   In the doubles final, Blaz Kavcic and Grega Zemlja of Slovenia defeated Daniel Brands of Germany and Brown 6-1, 3-6 [10-3]. Both teams were unseeded.
   Kavcic and Zemlja split $6,200, and Brands and Brown divided $3,600.


  1. Fritz and Donaldson may be the start of a great rivalry (as well as with all the other up and coming great young US men's players). Donaldson will have to keep his temper in check in these Challenger events. Of course when he gets into matches that include the Hawkeye system, his temperament should be more controlled since he will be able to challenge calls. What was interesting about that match yesterday was how the fan support started to go Fritz's way after Donaldson's outbursts in the first set. He should learn to endear himself to the crowd to gain their support. Fritz was much more even tempered even though there we some calls that clearly went against him in the final set. It was a tremendous week of tennis. Can't wait to get to Fairfield this weekend and watch more.

  2. Hows Fritz' backhand? I noticed he hits a huge forehand and enormous serve. Can he drive the backhand or is it more of a rally shot? Donaldson has a huge backhand. kozlov has a nice one, a bit like Agassi.

    1. He can drive it, although he considers his forehand better.