STUTTGART, June 10, 2016
Taylor Fritz is one of the Next Generation stars on the ATP World Tour. The youngster from the United States was ranked world number 764 at this time one year ago, having jumped to a career high 65th position in the meantime. At the age of 18 years and eight months, he is the youngest of currently three teenagers in the top 100.
Fritz, who was born in Rancho Santa Fe, was making his tournament debut at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart this week, beating French qualifier Fabrice Martin in the opening round to set a second round clash with Roger Federer. The Californian pushed the Swiss maestro the distance but eventually lost 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 after one hour and 40 minutes.
Earlier this season, Fritz appeared in his first main draw at the Australian Open and also capped a stunning week at the Memphis Open to become the youngest US-American reaching a final on the ATP World Tour since 17-year-old Michael Chang claimed the Wembley crown in 1989. He finished runner-up to Kei Nishikori but was overwhelmed to achieve another milestone in his career.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Fritz told in February. He played his only third tour-level event. “To be here in Memphis and think that it’s the final is crazy. I’m really excited that I got to this level and I’ve proven myself that I belong here.”
In Stuttgart he has already quadrupled his appearances on the ATP World Tour since February.
“I am still getting used to play on the big stages. I played some bigger junior tournament but that’s different to play with Federer or Nishikori in Memphis on centre court. The good thing is that you have nothing to lose, but on the other hand you do not want to have a bad day. I think that I am doing a good job in order to get adjusted to the life on tour and fitting in as time goes on,” Fritz told after his encounter with the former world number one at the Tennis Club Weissenhof.
The youngster captured three titles on the ATP Challenger Tour, the most recent one in Happy Valley in January, but he has started to skip the lower ranked tournaments. During his second Grand Slam in Paris Fritz stated:
“You always have to improve your level. It is your job, your profession. It is the best experience for me playing good tournaments on big stages. I surpassed the goals for this year and next step for me is to break into the top 50. I would have loved to achieve this by the end of the grass court season but unfortunately I didn’t perform so well on clay but the main thing is to enter ATP level tournaments directly. I wanted to be Guadeloupe my last Challenger.”
Indeed, falling to Malek Jaziri in the semis of the Open de Guadeloupe, was his last appearance on Challenger level. Fritz continued his journey at the ATP Masters 1000 events in Madrid and Rome but suffered two first round losses.
After another early exit at Roland Garros, Fritz has started to open his grass court campaign in order to meet his goals. He doesn’t want to get distracted from all the other off-court activities, which have started to get an impact on the youngster. As one of the new faces in tennis, he has to undergo a couple of marketing appointments during the weeks on the tour.
“I am really focused on what I want to be, and that is a professional tennis player. I always think about what’s going to help me and my career. With all the stuff surrounding me, I just let it happen and trying not to think about it too much,” he explained in Stuttgart, appearing at the press conference after his match, despite losing to Federer. Typically, only the winners meet the media representatives afterwards.
Fritz appears friendly and calm. And how do the established players on the tour react to the young gun coming up?
“They seem to be happy seeing new people. I am sure that they still remember being a young player and all of them are very welcoming and nice,” he said. No other than Federer himself gave credit to his second round opponent at the MercedesCup.
“This means a lot to me. The only thing I can do is to continue working hard and not getting a big head.” Fritz will remain on the big stage, continuing his grass court swing in Halle and Nottingham before he is going to make his debut in Wimbledon.