By E.J. Crawford
The Taylor Fritz File
Residence: Rancho Santa Fe, CA
Current Rank: 102
Career-High Rank: 102 (February 2016)
Best 2015 Series Finish: DNP
Taylor Fritz has the appearance of an overnight sensation, his recent run at the Memphis Open making him the youngest American to reach an ATP final since Michael Chang in 1989. But his path to success was far more deliberate. While many of his peers progressed to ITF events and junior Grand Slams, the son of former Top 10 women’s player Kathy May stayed in his native California, honing his game and dominating at the local level.
Fritz’s development plan came together in 2015, when the up-and-comer reached the French Open boys’ final, advanced to the Wimbledon junior semifinals and won the US Open Junior Championships to finish the year at No. 1 in the ITF World Junior Rankings.
That was impressive enough, but what followed has taken the tennis world by storm. Following the US Open, Fritz moved up to the pro ranks and quickly won two USTA Pro Circuit Challengers – the level just below tour events – adding a third Challenger title this year in Australia. He then won three matches to qualify for the Australian Open and made the most of his wild card last week in Memphis, knocking off No. 2 seed Steve Johnson and Top 100 veterans Benjamin Becker and Ricardas Berankis before falling in the final to world No. 7 Kei Nishikori, 6-4, 6-4.
Expecting a string of similar successes during this year’s Series is unfair. Young players seldom have a smooth run to the top, instead taking some odd stumbles as they learn what it takes to be consistently excellent pros. That said, the 6-foot-4 right-hander has a frame and a game built for the long haul. He has the kind of easy power, both with his serve and off the ground, requisite in modern tennis, and he covers the court well for a man his size.
Already, Fritz – whose ranking has skyrocketed nearly 600 spots in the last four months – is being mentioned among the top echelon of rising stars in men’s tennis. Continued development will make him a real contender for a Series crown down the road. For 2016, he would probably settle for a deep run or two in a couple of events – and with the right draw, maybe another trip to an ATP final.