Wimbledon-bound Taylor Fritz a forehand, family winner
Life is rushing at Rancho Santa Fe tennis sensation Taylor Fritz like a knee-buckling, 140 mph serve. Married at age 18. Father at 19. Three-time Wimbledon qualifier at 20.
This is a guy who, as a teen, had a birthday cake hand-delivered by boyhood idol Pete Sampras and won a set off of ironman Roger Federer. He’s pocketed nearly $1.27 million.
So as Fritz prepares to re-visit the history-soaked All England Club for Tuesday’s opener against Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego, Fritz feels tested — personally and professionally. And he’s hitting championship stride, particularly when it comes to reading bedtime stories.
“My wife and son got here and I read them a couple,” Fritz said by phone from London. “One was called, what was it? ‘Big Mouse, Little Mouse,’ I think. Raquel was jet-lagged, so she fell asleep, too.”
When he’s not chipping in to change a diaper or turn pages, Fritz is busy being the No. 68 men’s tennis player in the world. The road, not without bumps, traces clear and energizing progress.
In 2015, Fritz became the first American to hold the ITF Junior World Champion title since
Between 2015-16, Fritz’s ranking skyrocketed more than 1,000 spots. At the 2016 Memphis Open, he carved more history by becoming the youngest American to reach a tour-level final since Michael Chang in 1989 — in just his third event. Only
As 2017 loomed, Fritz found himself the youngest player in the Top 100.
The next level, now in satisfying sight.
“I feel like I’m close,” Fritz said. “I feel like it’s any of the next tournaments. The last four or five months, it felt like any of those weeks could be one of those breakthrough tournaments.
“I’m so close to taking that jump results-wise, to the Top 50, the Top 20. I feel like it’s just around the corner.”
Is the corner Wimbledon?
Well, history would say that’s unlikely given the size of the stage and the gauntlet of forehands awaiting. Fritz pulled his first solid draw in three trips, however, with Sonego — a player with a career-high ranking of 120 who fell to Fritz 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 at a Queen’s Club qualifier two weeks ago.
And despite his age, Fritz ranks No. 15 in the tour’s “under pressure rating,” which calculates a player’s performance related to break points converted and saved, along with the percentage of tie-breaks and deciding sets won.
“I think the advantage, maybe, is I have the confidence because I just beat him,” Fritz said. “The slight disadvantage might be if feels like he has nothing to lose. We’ll see.”
Fritz has yet to advance past a Wimbledon opener. He’s made the second round of a Grand Slam event once, stopping
When asked about a tennis story two years ago that wondered if he might someday be a “savior of U.S. tennis,” Fritz paused.
“It was kind of something that I needed to learn to deal with,” he said. “It probably hurt me at the end of 2016, when I started having all that success. I started beating people I wasn’t supposed to beat. Now, if I don’t beat some people they think it’s a bad loss.
“So the expectations change. You want to hear, ‘You’re the future of American tennis’ because that’s pretty cool, but it’s just added pressure.”
Not that Fritz has cemented household-name status. In an exhibition match this week against 2009 U.S. Open champ
“She said it one time. I was like, ‘Did I just hear that?’ ” Fritz said. “Then she said it a second time. I don’t care. It’s kind of funny. I’m pretty easy-going.”
And being a daddy? That’s life, Fritz nonchalantly reasoned.
“Any other parent who has a job deals with it, to be honest,” he said. “You have to spend some time away from your family, which sucks. But it makes the time away more important. If I’m not with my family and my son, I really need to make the most of it as far as work goes.”
Game. Set. Burp.
Fritz schedules San Diego return
For now, tennis pro Taylor Fritz and family live in Rancho Palos Verdes so he can to train at the USTA’s Training Center West in nearby Carson.
But Fritz, who’s No. 68 in the world as he preps for his third Wimbledon, is scheduled to compete for the San Diego Aviators in World TeamTennis matches July 15-16 at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad.
--Bryce Miller is a writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune
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