In the grand scheme of things, the final of the RBC Tennis Championships of Dallas in 2017 will have passed by unnoticed. But for Taylor Fritz, the week at the T Bar M Racquet Club was a watershed moment.
The 20-year-old swept his way to the final, defeating ATP Tour regulars Rajeev Ram and Denis Kudla along the way. In the final, he ran into Ryan Harrison, another young American with ambitions of going all the way in the sport, and it was Harrison who prevailed in straight sets 6-3 6-3 to clinch the title in Dallas.
It was a heartbreaking loss for Fritz, and it would be almost a year until he reached another ATP Challenger Tour final and it’s likely that there would have been some soul searching in the interim period. But as we know, adversity can be particularly productive for some, and for Fritz, it proved to be the catalyst for a rapid rise to the upper reaches of tennis.
Two Challenger Tour titles followed his Texan turmoil, and since progressing to the main ATP Tour the 23-year-old has appeared in five senior finals. There was disappointment at Tennessee and Georgia but triumph in Eastbourne in the UK.
Standing at number 30 in the ATP Tour rankings, Fritz is on the precipice of joining tennis’ elite, and his big serving style could well see him win Grand Slam trophies in the years to come. What a fillip that would be to see an American back in the upper echelons of the sport.
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
Like his compatriot John Isner, Fritz’s game is built around that booming serve – he has been unofficially clocked at the 149mph mark, which makes him amongst the fastest on the planet. He ranks sixteenth on the all-time list for a 147mph missile he served up at the U.S. Open in 2020.
The Californian has won 73% of his first serve points in 2021. That sort of consistency makes him very difficult to beat anywhere – but especially on the slicker grass and hard courts that the Tour will shift to in the second half of the year.
If he can improve his return of serve – and at 23, he has plenty of time to – Fritz will become a major contender at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in years to come, aided by that metronomic service game.
Even in 2021, he has to be considered a dangerous outsider. The fact that he is available at +10000 in the men’s singles Wimbledon tennis betting odds will certainly be enough to convince many that he represents a value play.
Although he’s never gone past the third round of a major, he took Denis Shapovalov to five sets at the 2020 U.S. Open and pushed eventual champion, Novak Djokovic, to a decider at the Australian Open in 2021. So, clearly, his Grand Slam pedigree is improving with each tournament.
If that ascension continues, America could well have a new tennis star on its hands.