Fritz Rises in Tokyo
Against all odds, American Taylor Fritz claimed his third title of the season at the Rakuten Japan Tennis Open Championships in Tokyo.
Fresh out of seven days of hotel quarantine in Seoul, the 24-year-old produced a week to remember, culminating in a 7-6(3), 7-6(2) victory over countryman Frances Tiafoe in the final.
The victory will see Fritz enter the top 10 in the world for the very first time in his career while he moves to No. 7 in the race to Turin for the ATP Finals.
“[It's] crazy, I don’t even think it’s set in just how fast the last four or five days have been,” said Fritz after the match.
“It’s so crazy, and I couldn’t have written it any better. It’s exactly what I needed for the Race, for my ranking, to kind of put me in a good position for the end of the year, so it’s amazing.”
Fritz’s road to the final was by no means easy, especially following a seven-day stint couped up in a hotel. The American endured three-setters against James Duckworth, Hiroki Moriya and Denis Shapovalov to get to the final. He was also due to face Nick Kyrgios in the quarterfinals before the Aussie withdrew.
Facing the in-form Tiafoe in the final was sure to be his toughest test yet and the match played as expected with both sets decided by a tiebreak. Heading into the match, Tiafoe had won 13 tiebreaks in a row - not good reading for team Fritz.
Yet, the reigning Indian Wells champion was determined to end the streak and he passed with flying colours. Fritz didn’t give Tiafoe a chance to edge ahead at any stage, failing to drop a single point on serve in either tiebreak.
"Both tie-breaks, I don't think I missed a first serve, which is a huge key, coming up with it in the big moments," said Fritz.
"I felt extremely calm and I felt like I had a lot of clarity in making decisions on the court. For playing such a big match in a final, that's huge to not be nervous and feel very calm and locked in."
The two are leading the resurgence in American men's tennis and both will start the new week at career-high rankings.
Djokovic Streak Continues
Novak Djokovic’s rich vein of form continued over the past week as he lifted his 90th career title at the Astana Open, Kazakhstan.
The former world No. 1 outclassed opponent Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 to lift his second title in a row after taking out the trophy in Tel Aviv the tournament prior.
Djokovic now sits just two tournament wins behind long-time rival Rafael Nadal (92) and thirteen behind Roger Federer (103), who sits second on the all-time list behind Jimmy Connors (109).
Post-match, Djokovic was quizzed on whether he ever dreamed of winning that many titles.
“I dared to dream, actually,” he said.
“I always hoped that I would be going to have a great career. Obviously, didn’t know the amount of finals I was going to play, the amount of tournaments I was going to win, but my intention was always to reach the highest heights in our sport.”
Djokovic was simply too good for Tsitsipas in the final, a tale becoming all too familiar for the Greek star. Tsitsipas is now losing 2-8 to Djokovic in their career head-to-head, with the Serbian winning the previous seven encounters.
To add insult to injury, Tsitsipas has now played in nine ATP 500 level finals and lost every single one of them.
The last two tournaments have seen Djokovic in fine form, a rare sight in 2022 due to his playing circumstances. For Djokovic, he’s just happy to be out there playing and competing.
“I’m just very grateful and blessed to be able to play this well at this stage of my life,” Djokovic said.
“You know, 35 is not 25. But I think the experience, probably, in these kinds of matches and big occasions helps as well to approach mentally in the right way.”
Djokovic stays firmly entrenched in the ATP top 10 following his triumph.