Taylor Fritz struggles but claims title at Delray, while Jessica Pegula falls short

Taylor Fritz competes at the Delray Beach Open
Taylor Fritz competes at the Delray Beach Open (Wikimedia commons)

After disappointing losses at the Australian Open and then the Dallas Open, Taylor Fritz finally put together a complete tournament, beating Miomir Kecmanovic 6-0, 5-7, 6-2 to claim the Delray Beach Open title. 

The 25-year-old American came into the tournament ranked seventh in the world and was 7-3 to start 2023, but lost in the semi-finals of the Dallas Open to 97th-ranked Yibing Wu and lost in the Round of 64 of the Australian Open to 113th-ranked Alexei Popyrin. 

Those two losses continued an up-and-down year for Fritz since last year’s Indian Wells championship. He produced good results overall but continuously dropped matches against much lower-ranked players, including losses at the Masters 1000 Montre Carlo to 46th-ranked Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, at the French Open, to 120th-ranked Bernabe Zapata Miralles, and at the U.S. Open in a first-round loss to 303rd-ranked qualifier Brandon Holt.

In fact, one of his disappointing losses last year was in the third round at the Masters 1000 Miami last year, when he lost to then-48th-ranked Kecmanovic, so Sunday’s title-winning match was all the sweeter. 

The 23-year-old Croatian came into the Delray Beach Finals ranked 33rd in the world but avoided any major challenges while in Florida. He beat 113th-ranked Radu Albot in the semi-finals, 55th-ranked Martin Giron in the quarter-finals, and 104th-ranked Nuno Borges in his first match. 

However, he wasn’t going to let Taylor Fritz walk over him, even after being throttled in the first set 6-0. Kecmanovic battled back in the second set, forcing Fritz into longer rallies that led to unforced errors from the higher-seeded American. Even when Fritz had match point up 5-4 in the second set, Kecmanovic held his ground, fighting it off and then winning the final three games of the set to force a deciding third set.

It was yet another example of Taylor Fritz simply not being able to close when he had the chance. In addition to the match point opportunity, Fritz had three break point chances in the second set and lost all three. Kecmanovic had one break-point opportunity and snatched it, breaking Fritz to take a 6-5 lead. 

In contrast to the tournaments mentioned above when the American wasn’t able to pull through, this time, Taylor Fritz showed his resolve. He came out in the third set and dictated the tempo, ripping hard groundstroke after hard groundstroke which forced Kecmanovic to play well beyond the baseline and produced quite a few unforced errors for the Croatian. 

While it wasn’t a perfect effort from Taylor Fritz, he played with an energy and effort that created opportunities. When Kecmanovic’s backhand sailed wide on match point, Fritz let out a massive scream of satisfaction. 

“This year was incredible after losing at the first and second round every single time I’ve been here. I couldn’t be happier with coming back and having this result” Taylor Fritz said after the match. 

While he was talking just about the Delray Beach Open, the same could be said for getting the monkey off of his back in general and battling through the adversity of wins that he should have been able to capture.

Despite not dropping a set heading into the finals, Taylor Fritz did grind through tie-breakers in the semi-finals against 56th-ranked Mackenzie McDonald and the quarterfinals against 59th-ranked Adrian Mannarino. Being pushed to a third set against Kecmanovic was just another example of the American escaping a jam of his own making. 

However, in the end, the win is the most important thing for Taylor Fritz and hopefully one that sets him on a course for continued success in 2023. He is now 11-3 on the year and the win gave him his fifth career ATP Tour singles title after winning three in 2022. 

“It made me really proud to be an American playing at a home event without how great the crowd was.”

Elsewhere, fourth-ranked American woman Jessica Pegula marched to the finals of Qatar TotalEnergies Open in her first tournament since her quarterfinal loss at the Australian Open, but she was unable to seal the deal, losing 6-3, 6-0 to the world’s number one Iga Swiatek of Poland. 

Pegula had beaten Swiatek this year at United Cup, but the number one player in the world didn’t let this match get particularly close and now holds a 5-2 lead over Pegula in their head-to-head.

It was a disappointing result for Pegula, but the American is 8-2 to begin 2023. She also defended her doubles title at the Qatar TotalEnergies Open with teammate Coco Gauff. The two won in Doha last year for their first-ever title together and went on to win two titles in 2022 while also making the French Open finals.  

The 29-year-old American was trying to become the first player to sweep singles and doubles titles at a WTA 500 event since Ashleigh Barty did it at Adelaide in 2022, but came up just a bit short. 

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Jessica Pegula won a doubles title while Taylor Fritz won a singles title
Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff hold up their trophies in Doha (Wikimedia Commons)