Taylor Fritz steps into the Tokyo final | ATP tour

Taylor Fritz thought he should miss the Rakuten Japan Open tennis championships after testing positive for COVID-19 in Seoul, where he had to self-quarantine for a week. But arriving just in time for his opening match in Tokyo on Wednesday, the American took advantage of his opportunity by reaching the ATP 500 final.

The odds were once again against Fritz against Denis Shapovalov in Saturday’s semi-finals, but the American fought back 1-3 in the deciding set to secure a 6-3, 6-7(5) win. ), 6-3. and qualify for his third ATP Tour final of the season.

“It’s pretty amazing what I’ve been able to accomplish this week,” said Fritz, who took advantage of Nick Kyrgios’ withdrawal ahead of their quarter-final. “Just thinking I might not even be able to play this tournament and then seven days in a room, wake up at 5 in the morning, get a flight here and just show up and play… It’s pretty crazy the the speed at which things are happening. That was only four days ago.”

On top of that feat, Fritz also landed what will be his Top 10 debut on next week’s edition of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

In a display of first-strike tennis from both men at the Ariake Colosseum, the American took control early behind his big serve and forehand. After saving a break point in his first service game, he claimed the first set then broke for 3-2 in the second before Shapovalov fashioned an immediate response.

The Canadian feared nothing as they won a dramatic tiebreaker to force a third set. After watching a passing shot from Fritz cross the line to erase a mini-break and tie the score at 4/4, Shapovalov ventured again on each of the next two points and was rewarded for his bravery. He then won the set by moving Fritz from corner to corner in a tense exchange that was one of the longest of the match.

Wavering to the crowd after sealing the set, Shapovalov then gathered momentum to take a 3-1 lead in the deciding match.

But a loving catch helped Fritz return to his best form, as he played the final five of the game to set up an all-American final against fellow Laver Cup teammate Frances Tiafoe. The most notable stat from the semi-final was Fritz’s 82% win rate (47/57) on first serve.

His three wins this week came in straight sets, with Fritz also winning the first and third sets over James Duckworth and Japan’s Hiroki Moriya. After initially saying he was concerned about his fitness after falling ill and spending a week in lockdown, Fritz was given a new challenge to adapt to the “extremely fast” conditions on the stadium ground.

“Honestly, physically I felt good all week,” he said after reaching the final. “I think the biggest challenge for me this week was court speed.”

Due to persistent rain in Tokyo, Fritz was only able to train on the venue’s indoor courts. But he was able to hit the show pitch Friday night after receiving a surprise from Kyrgios, and again early Saturday afternoon.

“I felt like it made a really big difference to my confidence and how I felt about hitting the ball,” he said.

Fritz’s victory set up the first all-American final in Tokyo since Pete Sampras defeated Richey Renenerg in 1996, in what was the fourth consecutive all-American final at the event. By winning his third title in Tokyo, Sampras completed a five-year streak of American champions that also included two triumphs for Jim Courier.

Fritz holds a 4-1 lead in the ATP Head2Head series against Tiafoe, who advanced to the finals with a 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 win over Soonwoo Kwon earlier on Saturday.

About Walter J. Leslie

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