Taylor Fritz is the top-ranked American men’s tennis player in the world, but he can’t seem to get over the hump in big matches. Saturday evening was just another in an ever-growing list of disappointing finishes as Fritz lost to Yibing Wu 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-4 at the semi-finals of the Dallas Open.
Fritz came into this match ranked 8th in the world but looking like anything but. He received a first-round bye as the number-one seed at the Dallas Open, but then he struggled to get past 141st-ranked Jack Sock in the second round, winning 7-6(5), 6-4. You could maybe chalk that first match up to rust, but it then took him three sets to beat 55th-ranked Marcus Giron in the quarter-finals before falling to Wu in the semis.
It’s not the first disappointing finish for Fritz, who was the heavy betting favorite to win this tournament. In fact, the poor performances in big matches are beginning to add up.
Last year, Fritz began with a run to the Round of 16 in the Australian Open and then beat Rafael Nadal to win Indian Wells in March. It was the biggest win of the American’s career and announced the California-native as a legitimate title contender.
It’s also been one of the last strong showings at a major tournament for Fritz.
At the Masters 1000 Miami, Fritz lost in the 3rd round to 48th-ranked Miomir Kecmanovic. At the Masters 1000 Montre Carlo he lost in the quarter-finals to 46th-ranked Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. At the French Open, he lost in the second round to 120th-ranked Bernabe Zapata Miralles.
He was able to advance to the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, where Rafael Nadal got the better of him, but then the frustrating losses kept piling up.
He lost in the second round in the Washington tune-up for the U.S. Open to 40th-ranked Daniel Evans. Then lost to Evans again a week later at the Masters 1000 Montreal.
Then the lowest point came. A first round loss in the U.S. Open to 303rd-ranked qualifier Brandon Holt. Fritz came into that tournament as the highest-ranked American male in the field with tons of pressure to finally win a Grand Slam title for the United States, something that hasn’t been done since Andy Roddick won the U.S. Open in 2003.
Fritz couldn’t even make it out of the first round.
He ended the 2022 year 46-21 with three ATP titles, showing a clear level of talent and skill, but the crucial win on the big stage kept alluding him since that showdown with Nadal at Indian Wells.
Fritz began 2023 with a strong showing in the United Cup. He went 4-1 in the event, beating 16th-ranked Matteo Berrettini, and 12th-ranked Alexander Zverev, 10th-ranked Hubert Hurkacz. It felt like a fresh start, and Fritz headed into the Australian Open looking to put his past Grand Slam struggles behind him.
But he was eliminated in the second round by 113th-ranked Alexei Popyrin.
Even as a record-breaking number of American men advanced into the fourth round of the tournament, the highest-ranked of all of them was already sent packing.
It continued a rough run at Grand Slams, where Fritz is 29-26 in his career. The struggles aren’t lost on the American, who was really hard on himself after losing at the U.S. Open.
“It sucks, feels awful,” he admitted at the time. “I’ve been playing really well, had really high hopes. I feel like an idiot for thinking that I could win this thing, win the US Open.”
“It’s a pretty common question that there’s all this pressure on me because I’m the No. 1 American but I just really need to manage how much pressure I’m putting on myself,” Taylor Fritz said in a recent interview with Forbes magazine. “It’s really all coming from me and what I expect. It’s going to be something I have to stay on top of and not put crazy amounts of pressure on myself especially when it comes to these big events like the U.S. Open and the (Grand) Slams.”
“I can be very hard on myself and expect a lot, but I want to have a really good year and I’m going to be taking it one match at a time and stay confident and stay positive.”
Unfortunately, Fritz didn’t match his own expectation at the Dallas Open either, which isn’t to take anything away from Wu Yibing, who was an incredibly accomplished player on the Junior circuit. However, the players on the junior circuit are not at the caliber of a top-10 player in the world. Fritz should have won this match.
He was up 5-4 and 30-0 in the second set but couldn’t close out the Chinese youngster when it mattered most. Instead of a trip to the Dallas Open finals against fellow American John Isner, Taylor Fritz is left to wrestle with another premature exit.
Reaching the top 10 in the world is an incredible accomplishment. There is no doubting the strong career that Taylor Fritz has put together. However, some are beginning to doubt whether we have seen the ceiling. Perhaps he is not the player who will help American tennis fans experience the glory of seeing one of their own finally lift another Grand Slam trophy.
“If I want to grow the sport in the United States, then I need to be better,” Fritz said after the Australian Open. “I need to win a Grand Slam. I need to do something big.”
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