Fritz Finishes Off Friend

American improves to 1-1 in Group B

Taylor Fritz and Liam Caruana played for the first time when they were 10 years old, but never have they competed on a stage like the Next Gen ATP Finals. They did so on Wednesday, with Fritz defeating home favourite Caruana 1-4, 4-1, 4-3(9), 4-2 to earn his first victory here in Milan.

The second match of the day session was a pressure-packed affair, as both players had lost their openers on Tuesday. But both Fritz and Caruana entered the tournament with momentum, as Fritz is at a career-high No. 47 in the ATP Rankings, and Caruana won three matches in three days in an Italian 21-and-under wild card playoff to make his way into the event.

Caruana got the home crowd into the match early, putting on an entertaining display of shotmaking to force Fritz to the back foot. The eighth seed lost just three service points in the first set to get into the match.

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But Fritz did well to play his favoured patterns, going hard cross-court with his backhand to open up opportunities to aggressively crack his forehand. And it looked like the American might cruise after taking the second set with the loss of just a game.

But in the third set, Caruana again hit sensational shots to match the fourth seed, even hitting a Pete Sampras-like diving backhand drop volley for a winner in the third set tie-break to give himself the second of three set points. The Italian had more ups and downs, though, and Fritz’s higher level of consistency gave him a two-sets-to-one lead.

In the fourth set, Fritz claimed his second break of the day. And when Caruana missed a forehand well wide, the American entered the winners’ column after one hour and 22 minutes. Fritz now has 23 tour-level match wins this season, in which he reached semi-finals in Houston and Chengdu.