Saturday, January 16, 2016

Fritz, 18, stages big rally to qualify for Australian Open

Taylor Fritz, shown en route to the title in the Fairfield
(Calif.) Challenger in October, overcame a 4-0 deficit
in the third set to reach the men's singles main draw in
a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. Photo by
Paul Bauman 
   Taylor Fritz is at it again.
   Fritz, who won the Sacramento and Fairfield Challengers back-to-back shortly before turning 18 on Oct. 28, rallied from a huge deficit to reach the men's singles main draw in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.
   Fritz stormed back from 0-4 in the third set to stun 28-year-old left-hander Mischa Zverev of Germany 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4 in Australian Open qualifying in Melbourne.
   "It was just having the heart and guts to keep going," the 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Fritz, from Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area, said on "A lot of people don't expect their opponent to try so hard when down a double break. I think I caught him a little off guard.
   "It was such a big match qualifying for the Australian Open. I think just my continued pressure on him was what won it for me."
   Zverev, a Moscow native, climbed to a career-high No. 45 in 2009. He was the runner-up to James Blake in the 2012 Sacramento Challenger.
   Fritz, who won last week's Happy Valley (Australia) Challenger, improved to 8-0 this year. His Sacramento and Fairfield titles were part of a 17-match winning streak that began with the U.S. Open boys title.
    In the second round of the Sacramento Challenger, Fritz saved three match points against third-seeded Dustin Brown of Germany. The 31-year-old Brown is 2-0 against Rafael Nadal, with both victories coming on grass.
   Fritz, who has skyrocketed from No. 694 in the world on Oct. 5 to No. 154, might have caught a break in the first round of the main draw. Although he is scheduled to face 25th-seeded Jack Sock of Kansas City, Mo., on Monday (PST), Sock retired from the Auckland final on Friday with flu-like symptoms while trailing Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 6-1, 1-0.
   Fritz's countryman, 28-year-old Tim Smyczek, also rallied to reach the main draw in Melbourne. The third-seeded Smyczek, who won the Tiburon Challenger last October and got married in November, beat No. 29 Kenny De Schepper of France 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.
   Smyczek, 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters) to De Schepper's 6-foot-8 (2.03 meters), will meet Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain on Monday in the opening round.
   Smyczek gained worldwide acclaim when he gave Nadal an additional serve late in the fifth set in the second round of last year's Australian Open. Nadal, battling stomach cramps and dizziness, prevailed 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-5 in 4 hours, 12 minutes.
   Also in Australian Open qualifying on Friday, No. 32 seed Dennis Novikov of Milpitas in the San Francisco Bay Area lost to No. 12 Yuichi Sugita of Japan 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
   Novikov tweeted: "Unfortunately couldn't qualify today at Aussie open, had my chances but you live and you learn. Onto the next -- Hawaii!"
   On the women's side, No. 2 seed and former Stanford star Nicole Gibbs advanced to the main draw with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Ivana Jorovic, 18, of Serbia.
   Gibbs, a 22-year-old resident of Marina del Rey in the Los Angeles region, will face Klara Koukalova of the Czech Republic on Sunday. The winner will play either No. 28 Kristina Mladenovic of France or Dominika Cibulkova, the 2014 runner-up from Slovakia.

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