Americans Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe both made winning starts at the Mutua Madrid Open on Saturday by coming through challenging opening matches in straight sets. Fritz edged Christopher O’Connell 7-6(11), 6-4, with Tiafoe wrapping a 6-3, 7-6(5) win against Tomas Martin Etcheverry soon after.
Fritz, fresh off consecutive semi-finals in Monte-Carlo and Munich, continued his strong clay-court form as the eighth seed in Madrid by beating fellow Munich semi-finalist O’Connell.
“It’s just understanding what I need to change. Because I’ve always been a believer in not really changing your game too much to go to different surfaces,” Fritz said of his recent success on the dirt. “As it turns out for clay, I play much better when I do make pretty drastic changes in where I’m standing and stuff like that. So it’s just about finding that, finding what works best for me on clay.”
The 25-year-old needed eight set points before closing out the first set in a marathon tie-break, 13/11, against Australia’s O’Connell, saving two set points to edge ahead on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium. He earned the first and only break of the match early in the second set and then saved a break point on his own serve to consolidate for 3-1.
Fritz saved one break point in each set and finished with eight aces and an 83 per cent win rate (34/41) on first serve, backed up by a 72 per cent mark (23/32) on second serve. He will next face Cristian Garin, who upset 27th seed Miomir Kecmanovic 7-6(3), 6-7(5), 6-4 in two hours, 42 minutes.
Tiafoe made a fast start against Etcheverry but needed to break to extend the second set as the Argentine served at 5-4. Though he had not created a break chance since the fourth game of the match, Tiafoe managed to draw level at the crucial moment and then won a dramatic tie-break that saw seven of 12 points go against serve.