Rancho Santa Fe’s Taylor Fritz sweeps U.S.T.A Boys 14 National Tennis Championships
The home of Taylor Fritz in Rancho Sante Fe is glittering with gold balls.
Fritz won his third overall top prize by sweeping the singles and doubles title at the U.S.T.A Boys 14 National Tennis Championships held Aug. 5-10 at San Antonio’s McFarlin Tennis Center.
The third seeded Fritz defeated No. 10 Gianni Ross of Burr Ridge, Ill., 6-1, 6-3 in the singles final. The day before, Fritz and his doubles partner Anudeep Kodali of Durham, N.C, the No. 1 seeds, dispatched the No. 3 team of Lane Leschly( Atherton, Calif.) and Mwendwa Mbithi ( Succasunna, N.J.) 6-0, 6-1 in the championship match.
Fritz’s accomplishment marked the second straight year a player swept the singles and doubles championships at the event hosted by the San Antonio Tennis Association. Fritz is currently ranked No. 1 in the United States.
“When you get into nationals, and the final rounds, everybody is good enough to beat everybody else,” said Fritz , who will enter Torrey Pines High School in September. “It all comes down to how someone plays against you. It’s all the best players in the United States here. When I got out there in the final rounds, I concentrated really well and played my game. I played well enough to beat some really great players.”
The 6-foot-1 Fritz has some great “tennis genes” in him. His dad, Guy Fritz, a former pro player, accompanied him to Texas. His mom, Kathy May Fritz, a 2011 Southern California Tennis Association Hall of Fame inductee (with Billie Jean King, Dick Leach, and others), was once ranked No. 8 on the women’s pro tour in the late 1970s. She also has collected an enormous number of USTA gold balls!
The first gold ball for the younger Fritz was garnered in July at the USTA Clay Courts at Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., as he and Billy Rowe (Coronado, Calif.) bested his future first-time partner, Kodali, and Jonathan Small (Midland, Mich.) in the doubles championship.
“We had good strategies,” said Kodali about their performance in the San Antonio tournament. “Taylor would fill me in about how the other players were going to play. We both have strong serves and solid ground strokes.”
The Nationals singles final was a rematch, as Fritz had beaten Ross in straight sets at the Clay Courts round of 16. In the championships at McFarlin, Fritz, who advanced to last year’s third round, utilized a long, looping forehand, along with a strong serve, to power him in the victory over Ross. The two competitors each broke the other’s serve in five of the first six games of the second set. Fritz’s handcuffing serve, in a love game, gave him a 3-2 advantage. Ross was broken during the next game, which went to deuce several times. Key lobs by Fritz were instrumental in his holding service at 5-2, but Ross closed to 3-5 with a shot on the line. In the final game, Fritz’s weaponry included two aces in his championship wrap-up.
“ I think my forehand is a very big factor in my matches,” Fritz said, “because it’s my biggest shot, usually I’ll lose matches if my forehand is off. Today (in the final), on some really big points, I was able to run around and hit some hard forehand winners. In the second set, he started putting pressure on my second serve. There were some close games, and it could have gone either way.”
Ross battled hard, however, and was effective with two- fisted backhands and hard volleys.
“I think I have pretty decent volleys,” Ross said. “I am more of singles volleyer than a doubles volleyer, because I like to close in and get really close to the net. But he got to some of my volleys, and they landed over my head. He had a bigger shot occasionally to hit a winner off me.”
In the semifinals, Fritz’s strong serve and baseline winners prevailed in a 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 8 seed Connor Hance of Torrance, Calif. Fritz yielded only two points of the first five games of the second set in the match with Hance, an upset quarter finals winner (6-3, 6-4) over second-seeded Evan Zhu of Greenbelt, Md. Zhu had emerged as the singles champion of the Clay Courts.