A lot has happened for Taylor Fritz since he reached the Indian Wells semi-finals just five months ago. The American’s breakout performance at the autumn edition of the ATP Masters 1000 event started an 11-3 stretch that also included a finalist finish in St. Petersburg and a quarter-final showing at the Rolex Paris Masters.
Those results helped Fritz earn the title of No. 1 American for the first time at season’s end.
In January, he achieved more firsts by reaching the last 16 at the Australian Open — a career-best Slam result — and breaking into the Top 20. His Melbourne milestone, which nearly brought him to tears, was documented by a Netflix camera crew which will accompany him throughout the season for the upcoming tennis docuseries on the platform.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) January 22, 2022
Now back in his native Southern California, the 24-year-old San Diegan is expecting more success, feeling both added confidence and added pressure from his previous result in the desert.
“I’m the kind of person that if I do something once, I expect myself to do it again; it should be easier to do it again,” he told ATPTour.com at Indian Wells. “So, if I made semis last year then obviously I want to make semis this year, but that’s very tough.”
The Indian Wells Tennis Garden has always been a special place for Fritz, who attended the tournament as a kid long before taking a starring role on one of the game’s biggest stages.
“It’s my favourite tournament,” he said. “It feels like my home tournament because I have a tonne of family that lives here and I spent so much time here growing up as well, coming here as a kid before I was a professional tennis player.
“Then obviously this was my big breakthrough last year, the semi-finals, and since then I’ve just kind of been riding on that momentum from here.”
On the heels of an inspired offseason training block, Fritz started strong in 2022 with two singles wins at the ATP Cup prior to his Melbourne run.
“I think finishing the year with so much confidence made my offseason so much better,” he explained. “I was so motivated to keep doing all the right things, work extremely hard, because I could just see how much better my game was and how much better it was getting, so I just wanted to keep pushing and putting the work in so I could continue in Australia.”
Fritz remains focussed on bigger goals despite his recent success, now setting his sights on the Top 10. He was sitting pretty at a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 16 as the American No. 1, before a 2-2 record in the month of February (coupled with some big results from Reilly Opelka) left him at World No. 20 and American No. 2 entering Indian Wells.
But even at that peak, he was far from satisfied.
“I’m not worried about being the No. 1 American right now,” he said. “I’m worried about being Top 10 in the world.”
“You just have to keep the end goal in mind and never be satisfied. I think the worst thing you can do is have some good results and then be satisfied with yourself, satisfied with what you’ve done, and then kind of relax a bit because you’re tired of the constant work.
“For me, I just kept telling myself my goal this year is Top 10 and nothing else.”
That said, Fritz has taken some time to smell the roses in the desert.
“Even though I was at No. 16 in the world, which is awesome — I take a second and I think about that; it’s pretty cool — there’s still a long way to go and a lot of work that has to be done.”
Just prior to Indian Wells, Fritz represented Team USA in a Davis Cup Qualifier win against Colombia in Reno. His captain, Mardy Fish, was full of praise for Fritz’s attitude towards improvement:
“Never be satisfied. Understand how far you’ve come, understand the work that you’ve put in. Embrace that, but never be satisfied with your ranking or getting into the Top 20 or anything like that,” said Fish, a former World No. 7 himself.
“My captain when I had my best years, Jim Courier, I’ll never forget,” he recently told USTA.com. “He sent me a text the first time I made the Top 10 and mentioned something about that — embrace it and appreciate it, but don’t be satisfied. And so it seems like Taylor has the right attitude in that regard.”
Describing his charge’s growth on the court, Fish pointed to Fritz’s improved consistency in taking care of business against lower-ranked players.
“You can really build an incredible career in beating players you’re supposed to be every time, and he’s starting to do that,” Fish explained, “which is why we’re seeing the successes he’s had.”
Frances Tiafoe was also quick to credit Fritz’s recent development. Both men have played for Fish, though they have yet to compete in the same tie for the U.S.
“Taylor’s special,” said Tiafoe, who fell to his compatriot in three sets in the Australian Open second round. “He always had a pretty good serve, but the things that have impressed me… he’s crushing his forehand, he’s going after his forehand much more.
“But the biggest thing is, honestly, he’s moving so much better,” the American told ATPTour.com. “I think he’s really taken the time on his movement. He’s not one of the faster guys, but for his size he’s moving much better and it’s paying dividends for him. I hope he keeps going.”
Whatever heights Fritz can rise to this year will be well-documented thanks to the Netflix docuseries. The American is hoping the added exposure will bring more young fans into the sport and increase its mainstream popularity in the U.S.
“The ins and outs of our sport, it’s so cool, but no one really understands,” he said. “Even though people know the Grand Slams and people know the all-time greats, people don’t know all the intricacies of it.
“One of my biggest goals in my career is to make tennis in the United States a much cooler sport that’s just much more popular amongst the average fan. I want ESPN, SportsCenter to be covering the American tennis players; results throughout the year, not just talking about a couple of players here and there at the Grand Slams, but ‘Frances won his match today at Queens,’ or whatever. I think that would be cool to see tennis get that kind of attention.”
Despite the heavy camera presence and constantly being mic’d up, Fritz has enjoyed the filming process so far. And in typical Taylor style, he’s laid back when looking ahead to the finished product.
“It’s been really easy, honestly. Just minding my own business. A lot of people ask me, ‘What are people going to see, who do you want to portray?’ I’m not going to worry about it. I’m just going to be me, and I hope people like me.
“And if they hate me, it is what it is,” he added with a smile.
Did You Know?
Fritz is a longtime supporter of Manchester United, tracing his roots as a fan back to the early days of Cristiano Ronaldo at the club.
“I’m a massive fan of Ronaldo. Like, forever. Not just from when he’s at United now, when he was at United earlier in his career. I’m such a big Ronaldo fan because I love his confidence. A lot of people call him cocky or whatever, but I think I’m very much the same way and I think that you need to be very confident and believe in yourself. I love his work ethic as well; he’s such an incredibly hard worker, so I look up to him a lot and so I’ve always just been a fan of United.”