It has been quite the last 12 months for young American rising star Taylor Fritz. The 18-year-old is the youngest player in the top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, currently ranked at a career high of world number 6-3, the American was ranked at just 757 in the world this time last year. During this time in his staggering rise he has won ATP Challenger titles in Happy Valley, Sacramento and Fairfield, made his first main draw appearance at Grand Slams in the Australian Open and Roland Garros and reached the final of the ATP event in Memphis.
“I never thought I’d be able to move up to 63 in the world”
Reflecting on his meteoric rise, Fritz has found the experience very surreal. “Last year I just met so many people that I thought I would never be around; it has been amazing to have the experience of meeting my tennis idols. It’s crazy the stuff I’m getting to do.
“I knew when I was 700 in the world, it was due to the fact that I wasn’t playing a lot of professional tennis, I was focusing on my junior career. But I never thought I’d be able to move up to 63 in the world. When I started pros my goal was to make it to slam qualifiers at the end of the year, so that’s top 200 in the world. I’ve definitely done a lot better than I thought would be possible.”
Facing Federer in Stuttgart
Fritz’s performances on the grass courts this season have brought him mixed success. The American began with a win over Fabrice Martin in the first round of Stuttgart, as he recovered from match point down to prevail 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-1. The 18-year-old then had the opportunity to take on Roger Federer in the second round and produced a highly commendable performance, taking a set off the 17-time Grand Slam champion, with the Swiss eventually prevailing 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.
The world number 63 relished the experience and opportunity on the big stage against one of his idols. “It was really awesome, he was always the player who was just dominating everyone when I was growing up as a little kid, so it’s actually crazy to step on the court and actually be playing him and to have a close match with him as well was crazy because when I grew up, he was the best.”
Looking ahead to making his debut at Wimbledon
The American then fell to world number 102 Yuichi Sugita in the first round of Halle and recently lost to Adrian Mannarino in the first round of Nottingham, but is still feeling confident about his grass court game as he prepares to make his maiden appearance in the main draw at Wimbledon.
“Yeah I’m really excited to go there for the first time as a pro, having been there as a junior twice and played well there I’m really excited,” he said. “I feel like I’m a pretty good grass court player, I’m definitely better on grass courts than clay courts, I think it’s a surface I can do well on, so you know will see. I just want to do as well as I can. I need to see the draw first but I’m going to compete 100 percent and play good tennis, I mean who knows, I’ll be satisfied as long as I’ve played and competed well.”
Memphis Open final – The highlight of Fritz’s career so far
Fritz not only has the main draw of Wimbledon to look forward to, but also the chance to make his maiden appearance in the main draw at his home slam, the US Open. The 18-year-old won the US Open Junior Championships last year, which was a career highlight, but making the final at the Memphis Open is the biggest achievement so far in his eyes. “Making the final in Memphis was a real highlight, it would be hard to exclude that as being my best achievement so far.”
The world number 63 reached that particular final in what was just his third tour-level event. At just 18 years and 109 days old, he became the youngest ATP finalist since Kei Nishikori won Delray Beach back in 2008 at 18 years and 50 days old. It was Nishikori who Fritz faced in the Memphis final, with the Japanese player winning 6-4, 6-4. Fritz was also the youngest American ATP finalist since Michael Chang won Wembley in 1989.
For Fritz the future looks bright, it appears that the only way is up for the 18-year-old as the limelight will only continue to grow and surround America’s next big tennis star.