detail-1 Taylor Fritz
#10

Taylor Fritz

Birthday:
1997-10-30
Gender:
male
Nationality:
United States
Height:
193
Ranking:
10
Residence:
Palos Verdes, CA

Taylor Fritz heads an exciting young generation of American players. Richard Evans looks at the pedigree and mentality of a man who has established himself in the world’s top 10.

Results

Winner

Singles
Year City
2024 Delray Beach
2023 Delray Beach
2022 Tokyo
2022 Indian Wells
2019 Eastbourne

Finalist

Singles
Year City
2020 Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC
2020 Acapulco
2019 Atlanta
2019 Los Cabos
2016 Memphis
Doubles
Year City
2018 Los Cabos

 

Seeing Taylor Fritz in the world’s top 10, something that has become the norm over the past year or so, feels about right. It’s sort of what you might expect of a strapping 1.94m (6ft 4in) athlete who happened to have a mother, Kathy May, who was ranked in the world’s top 10 in 1977 and a father, Guy Fritz, who played on the ATP tour and went on to be the Olympic Development coach for the USTA. Having a racquet put in his hand at the age of two probably helped as well.

Since that moment, young Fritz has had as good advice on to how to play a difficult sport as anyone could hope for – not just from two sensible and obviously qualified parents, but from three of the game’s best coaches, David Nainkin, Paul Annacone, and Michael Russell.

South African-born Nainkin, who coached Mardy Fish, Sam Querrey and Sloane Stephens, and Annacone, who has Pete Sampras and Roger Federer on his resume, are close friends and live within driving distance of Fritz’s home town of Rancho Palos Verdes near San Diego in southern California.

Talyor Fritz hitting a forehand in Indian WellsTalyor Fritz hitting a forehand in Indian Wells

For a while, Annacone split some of the time on the road with Nainkin. By then they had no doubt that Fritz could become a big player. In 2015 he won the US Junior title and was declared World Junior Champion by the ITF. The following year, he became the youngest American since Michael Chang in 1988 to reach an ATP final when he powered his way through the Memphis draw before losing to Kei Nishikori. That lifted him into the world’s top 100, and in 2017 he scored his first major victory by beating the former US Open champion Marin Cilic at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.

Annacone quickly noted how mature Taylor was emotionally – more so than physically. ‘He was growing fast and needed to bulk up, but mentally he was incredibly good,’ Annacone says.

Maturity comes in many forms and does not exclude a romantic heart. At 18, he proposed to Raquel Pedraza, a pro player herself, under the Eiffel Tower. By July 2016 they were married and little Jordan’s emergence in January the following year made Taylor a 19-year-old father. Crediting his young wife’s parenting skills for allowing him to continue to concentrate on his game, Fritz celebrated fatherhood by winning his first ATP title on grass at Eastbourne in 2019.

Although brought up on the hardcourts of California, Fritz’s power game transfers naturally to grass and, according to Annacone, the HEAD Radical MP racquet that has been in his hand for most of his career plays a big part in that. ‘It’s light and tight,’ says Annacone, referring to the weight and Head’s tight string pattern. ‘It offers the perfect balance between power and control.’

For the past couple of years, Fritz has been coached by Michael Russell, the former American touring professional, who helped Fritz to his biggest success to date, and certainly his most emotional.

The closest tournament to Fritz’s home is Indian Wells, and in March 2022 Fritz had a dream run to the final. But on the eve of that final, he injured his ankle, and feared he would not be able to take to the court against Rafael Nadal, or at least would have no chance against the Spaniard who had not lost a match all year. But playing through severe pain, Fritz beat Nadal in straight sets, ending in tears of joy. And the whole experience – on court and behind the scenes – was captured by Netflix for its ‘Breaking Point’ documentary series.

Talyor Fritz wins Indian Wells Talyor Fritz wins Indian Wells

Nadal stopped Fritz in a final set tiebreak in their quarter-final at Wimbledon four months later, and the quarters is the round Fritz has yet to break through at Grand Slam level. But with a rock-solid baseline game, and a massive serve, it cannot be long before the striking American (who has done some fashion modelling) makes it to the final weekend of a major.

Annacone said about Fritz, ‘Taylor is very sure how he wants to play and has his own set of beliefs. As coaches, he tested us, asking questions, challenging assumptions. Like so many top players, he can be stubborn and opinionated, but it’s all because he is determined to improve.’

The last American man to win a Grand Slam singles title was Andy Roddick in 2003. Fritz heads a generation of US hopefuls that include Frances Tiafoe, Ben Shelton, Sebastian Korda, and his close friend Tommy Paul. ‘I always like groups of competitive friends who can push each other to do better,’ Annacone says. ‘It hastens the process. Taylor is very driven and is at the front of a very promising generation.’

 

 

WORDS BY RICHARD EVANS