“First match, a little bit of nerves, obviously, so it was good to kind of get through it safely,” the 24-year-old American told reporters afterward. “Some things I would like to work on tomorrow, do a bit better, but all in all like in a pretty good place with my game after that match.”
A year ago, regardless of the tournament, Fritz was just looking to win a match or two. Now, seeded No. 20 at Indian Wells and armed with the same ranking number among ATP Tour players, Fritz expects to go deep into draws. This confidence comes directly from the results he’s produced over the past six months, going back to – by a quirk of scheduling – the 2021 version of Indian Wells.
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Fritz, it seems, was born to succeed in the California desert. He was born and raised in nearby Rancho Santa Fe and spent many pleasant days wandering among the matches in this lovely tennis garden. Last fall, he reached the semi-finals of his first ATP Masters 1000, the first of his career. To do it, he had to beat two Top-10 players, Matteo Berrettini and Alexander Zverev, saving two match points against the German.
Two weeks later, Fritz was a finalist in St. Petersburg and a quarter-finalist at the ATP Masters 1000 in Paris, falling there 4-6, 3-6 to World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. He reached the round of 16 at this year’s Australian Open, a career best, extending Stefanos Tsitsipas to five sets in a match that went nearly three hours and a half.
“For sure, I think just my level as a player has gone up,” Fritz said. “I think I’ve gone up several levels. I think I’m a way better player than I was when I was here last year, and I think I’ve improved a lot.
“So, yeah, I expect a lot more of myself. My goal is to move into the Top 10. So I definitely have a lot higher expectations.”
‘Never Be Satisfied:’ Taylor Fritz Aiming Higher After Top 20 Breakthrough
And the world will be watching. Fritz is one of the ATP players the Netflix crew has been shadowing in its upcoming tennis docuseries. One of his goals, he said, is to make tennis a “cooler” sport, one that will appear more often on ESPN’s iconic SportsCenter.
“Sounds very nit-picky because obviously the match, it was 6-1, 6-1 today, but I think there were some things I could have done a bit better,” he said. “So, tighten up some things tomorrow in practice but, yeah, confidence-wise, it’s great to start out with a match like this.”
Fritz finished the 2021 season as the No. 1-ranked American man. Two other former No. 1 Americans also won matches Sunday. No. 23 John Isner evened his career head-to-head with Sam Querrey at five-all with a 7-6(6), 7-6(3) second-round victory. Steve Johnson upset No. 22 seed Aslan Karatsev 7-6(5), 6-4.