Friday, August 11, 2017

U.S. sensation Fritz reaches semis at 100K Aptos

After practicing, Taylor Fritz glances at a match
on Center Court in Aptos, Calif., on Wednesday.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Wild card Taylor Fritz, one of the United States' top prospects, defeated sixth-seeded Tennys Sandgren of Gallatin, Tenn., 6-5, 7-6 (1) today in the quarterfinals of the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger at the Seascape Sports Club in Aptos, Calif.
   Fritz, 19, of Palos Verdes in the Los Angeles area, saved three sets points while serving at 5-6 in the second set.
   Fritz made his Challenger debut two years ago in Aptos, losing to veteran Mischa Zverev, now ranked 26th, in the first round. Two months later, Fritz won the Sacramento and Fairfield Challengers, also in Northern California, back to-back at 17.
   He became the second-fastest American man to reach an ATP World Tour final last year at Memphis and stunned then-No. 7 Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, at Indian Wells in March.
   Ranked a career-high No. 53 one year ago, Fritz has tumbled to No. 131 because of knee problems.
   Fritz's mother (Kathy May), father (Guy Fritz) and uncle (Harry Fritz) all played professionally.  May peaked at No. 10 in the world in 1977 and played in three career Grand Slam quarterfinals.
   Taylor Fritz will meet qualifier Liam Broady of Great Britain in today's second semifinal. Broady, a 23-year-old left-hander, beat Raymond Sarmiento of Los Angeles 6-4, 6-4. Sarmiento, a 25-year-old former USC All-American, played in the Aptos quarterfinals for the second consecutive year.
    In the first semifinal, which will follow an 11 a.m. doubles semi, Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan will face Sam Groth of Australia.
   Bublik, a 20-year-old Russia native, eliminated wild card Dennis Novikov of Milpitas in the San Francisco Bay Area 6-1, 6-4 in 64 minutes. Milpitas is a one-hour drive north of Aptos.
   Bublik, 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters) and only 165 pounds (75 kilograms), qualified for the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year. He shocked France's Lucas Pouille, then ranked 16th, in the first round in Melbourne before losing to Malek Jaziri of Tunisia. Bublik fell to top-ranked Andy Murray 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in the opening round at Wimbledon.
   Groth held off countryman Akira Santillan, a 20-year-old Tokyo native, 7-5, 7-6 (4). Groth pounded 17 aces, and Santillan had 15.
   Groth, 29, set an unofficial record with a 163.7-mph (263.4-kph) serve in the 2012 Busan (South Korea) Challenger and climbed to a career-high No. 53 in 2015.
    Both semifinals will be first-time meetings.
    The Aptos tournament, the oldest men's Challenger in the United States, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Past competitors include International Tennis Hall of Famers Patrick Rafter and Michael Chang, as well as future Hall of Famers Andy Murray, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan.

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