Saturday, February 13, 2016

Fritz, 18, survives scare to gain Memphis semis

Taylor Fritz, serving en route to the title in the Fairfield,
Calif., Challenger last October, edged Benjamin Becker
6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (5) in the quarterfinals of the Memphis Open.
 Photo by Paul Bauman
   Once again, Taylor Fritz wriggled his way out of trouble.
   The 18-year-old wild card from Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area edged Benjamin Becker of Germany 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (5) in 2 hours, 20 minutes on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Memphis (Tenn.) Open.
   Becker, the oldest player in the singles draw at 34, served for the match at 6-5 in the third set, but Fritz broke him at 15.
   "It's incredible," Fritz told reporters. "I can't believe it. To come back in that way, with him serving for the match, I'll never forget that.
   "I told myself that the balls were worn out and that I just had to make him play. I tried to make him beat me under pressure.
   The match statistics were fairly even, except in one familiar area for the mentally tough Fritz. He saved 54 percent of the break points against him (6 of 11) to only 28 percent (2 of 7) for Becker, the 2004 NCAA singles champion from Baylor who ended Andre Agassi's career in the third round of the 2006 U.S. Open.
   The 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Fritz, who won the Sacramento and Fairfield, Calif., Challengers back-to-back at 17 last October, became the youngest American to reach the semifinals on the ATP World Tour since 17-year-old Michael Chang won at Wembley in 1989.
   Fritz grew up in a prominent tennis family. His mother (Kathy May), father (Guy Fritz) and uncle (Harry Fritz) all played professionally. May climbed to No. 10 in the world and reached three Grand Slam quarterfinals. Guy is one of Taylor's coaches.
   Taylor, who also advanced to the doubles semis in Memphis with Ryan Harrison, will face unseeded Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania in singles. The 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Berankis, ranked No. 102, upset third-seeded Donald Young of Atlanta 7-6 (3), 6-1.
Becker, playing in the 2012 Sacramento Challenger,
served for the match against Fritz in Memphis.
 Photo by Paul Bauman
   Fritz has skyrocketed from No. 694 entering Sacramento to No. 145. He will rise to about No. 114 with a loss to Berankis, around No. 103 with a runner-up finish or approximately No. 82 by winning the title.
   Two tough matches in a row for Fritz, plus his doubles success, could take a toll on him against Berankis, 25. Fritz ousted second-seeded Steve Johnson 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7) in 1 hour, 56 minutes on Thursday.
   Berankis, who is not playing doubles, seeks his second career ATP singles final. He lost to 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Sam Querrey 6-0, 6-2 in Los Angeles in 2012.
   The fourth-seeded Querrey, in fact, will play top seed and three-time defending champion Kei Nishikori of Japan in the other Memphis semifinal (5:30 p.m. PST, Tennis Channel). Querrery, a 28-year-old San Francisco native, defeated John Isner for the 2010 Memphis title.
   Nishikori, 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters), is 4-3 with a three-match winning streak against Querrey. During the streak, Nishikori prevailed 5-7, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) in last year's Memphis semifinals.

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