Fritz Scores First Top 10 Win: "Words Can't Describe It"
Taylor Fritz played the match of his life to fight back and stun World No. 7 Marin Cilic 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 at the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday. It was the first Top 10 victory for the 2016 ATP Star of Tomorrow presented by Emirates.
"Just the whole experience with the crowd, how I came back in the match, words can't describe it, really," said a beaming Fritz during a packed post-match press conference.
Late-night matches in Indian Wells are a special treat for not only the spectators, but the players as well. In the shadow of the San Jacinto Mountains, Stadium 3 was abuzz with excitement on a warm evening in the California desert. Chants of 'Taylor! Taylor!' rang out as fans shuffled over from witnessing fellow American Jack Sock defeat Henri Laaksonen on the adjacent Stadium 2.
As the clock struck 10pm, the last match of the second round finally reached its conclusion. Cilic was in cruise control from the first ball, surging to a set and a break lead. But Fritz stormed back, drawing level at a set apiece and grinding again from a break deficit in the decider.
With friends and family in attendance, forehands exploded off the California native's racquet and he would serve for the match at 5-3. Cilic would break back, but Fritz had the last word, breaking for the match in the very next game. He would survive after just over two hours, reaching the third round at an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event for the first time.
The American was congratulated on court by his biggest fan, cousin Matthew Fritz, who has Down syndrome, and was overwhelmed by the reception. "It was amazing, especially with all the crowd support," Fritz added. "And just being at this tournament, my whole family was there. [My wife] Raquel was going crazy. It was amazing.
"I started off definitely slow. I thought I was going to get bageled in that first set. Then I was just making a lot of balls... I thought the main thing today was how I returned serve. Also, I thought I did a pretty good job of competing and just sticking in the match and staying solid.
"Instead of getting really down on myself, I just told myself, 'You know what? At least I put myself in that opportunity to serve out the match'. I thought I had been doing a really good job of returning his serve, so I thought there was a chance I could break back. And especially after I lost my serve, I said, 'Oh, now I really, really don't want to lose this match.' I would be thinking about it for the next week about how I choked."
It was a big win for Fritz, who is looking to regain his top form after falling out of the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings just a month ago. The #NextGenATP star showed why he is considered one of the bright rising talents on the ATP World Tour, becoming the first teenager to defeat a Top 10 player this year.
With significant points up for grabs in the Emirates ATP Race To Milan, Fritz puts himself in strong position after reaching the third round at the first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event of the year.
"If I am going to be totally honest, I check it a lot," Fritz said, referring to the Emirates ATP Race To Milan standings. "I do want to be there. It's something I feel like would be a huge honour to be there, because there's so many new people that came up at the end of last year and this year in the whole the NextGen campaign. So many new, amazing players that just make the Race so much tougher.
"I think it would be really cool to be in it the first year. I'm just working really hard. I do check it a lot. I'm definitely looking at it. This result is helping me a lot for Milan."
Fritz will face Tunisia's Malek Jaziri on Tuesday, with a coveted spot in the Round of 16 on the line.