Australian Open: Fritz Earns First Top 10 Win At A Major

Taylor Fritz (photo: Tennis Australia/Hamish Blair)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 21, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 12 Taylor Fritz put a lot of trust in himself and it rewarded him handsomely. On Middle Sunday at the Australian Open, the U.S. No. 1 and the last of 12 Americans remaining in the men’s draw advanced to his first AO quarterfinal by beating his first Top 10 opponent.

The 12th seed Fritz overcame No. 7 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, last year’s finalist, 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-3, 6-3, in three hours and one minute on John Cain Arena for his 14th career victory in Melbourne.

Fritz struck 50 winners, including 13 aces, and won 86 percent of his first-serve points by relying upon an average first-serve speed of 198 kmh. The American’s strategy of shortening the points through his powerful serve and forehand was an effective one.

“I’m really happy. I think start to finish I played really well. Especially I’m super happy about the way I finished it,” said Fritz, 26, in his post-match news conference, describing the feeling of beating a Top 10 opponent at a major for the first time. “The last three games of the match I really, really turned it on, almost like was in a trance and everything. Just felt good. I felt like I knew exactly what shot to hit, the right decision to make on every ball.

“It’s great. It’s been a while since I’ve had that feeling, so it gives me a lot of confidence.”

Meanwhile, Tsitsipas did not play his best tennis against Fritz. He surrendered seven double faults, committed 33 unforced errors and his serve was broken four times. He was outpointed by Fritz 135-114.

With the defeat, Tsitsipas has now lost five straight to Top 20 opposition. The loss dropped his 2024 win-loss record to 4-2.

“I’ll take the time to reflect. I’ll take the time to visualize better next time I face against him, to allow myself to have all these emotions sink in and be part of my past, be part of my journey on the tennis court,” Tsitsipas said during his post-match news conference.

“It’s not a negative feeling. It’s a feeling of evolution, of change, which is constant. Change is always constant. One day you’re in the Top 10, the other day you’re not there anymore, so you have to keep on working and allowing yourself to flourish through these experiences, allow yourself to sort of seek for all these moments that have been working for you over the last few years, give it another shot time after time.

“It’s painful, and the moments of glory are not that many. There’s just way more moments in your career that are painful and tough to deal with, suffering and all that stuff, than moments of glory and success and opening champagne bottles. These are a very small percentage of what a tennis player lives on a yearly basis.”

While Tsitisipas reflects on what night have been, Fritz is very much alive in the chase for his first major title after advancing to the last eight at three of the four Grand Slams. His next opponent is 10-time AO champion Novak Djokovic.

The World No. 1 and top seed from Serbia dominated No. 20 seed Adrian Mannarino of France from first ball to last ball in winning 6-0, 6-0 6-3 in an hour and 44 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. Djokovic is now tied with Roger Federer for the most Grand Slam quarter-finals with 58.

Djokovic won the first 13 games of the fourth-round match and, soon, after striking 17 aces and 31 winners, the victory was all his to savor.

The first two sets [were some] of the best sets I’ve played in a while,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. Then, he quipped to the crowd: “I really wanted to lose that game in the third set, because the tension was building up so much in the stadium. I just needed to get that one out of the way so I can refocus on what I needed to do to close out the match.”

“I played great, from the first to the last point.”

Sinner survives Khahchanov, Rublev is next

World No. 4 and fourth seed Jannik Sinner of Italy overcame a shaky middle set against No. 15 seed Karen Khachanov, committing 15 unforced errors in the middle set alone, before steadying himself to a 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 win in two hours and 34 minutes on Margaret Court Arena.

Sinner, 22, successfully defended nine of 10 break points against the Russian, while converting five of eight. He finished with 46 winners to 34 unforced errors and outpointed Khachanov 104-84. The reigning Olympic silver medalist countered with 27 winners but also made 29 unforced errors.

“It was for sure a different match today,” Sinner said in his post-match remarks. “I felt like we both were hitting the ball really well from the back of the court. Every match is obviously different. It’s a pleasure to be here [in the quarter-finals]. Obviously happy with the outcome of the match.”

The victory ties Sinner for second for the most Grand Slam quarterfinal appearances by an Italian man. He trails only Hall of Fame great Nicola Pietrangeli, who made 10 Grand Slam quarterfinals.

Next, Sinner will take on World No. 5 Andrey Rublev, the last remaining Russian. The fifth-seeded Rublev rallied to win a roller-coaster five-setter over World No. 10 Alex de Minaur of Australia, 6-4, 6-7 (5) 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-0, in four hours and 14 minutes. It was Rublev’s 300th career win. He took advantage of 50 unforced errors by de Minaur, the last Australian left in the men’s draw.

“Andrey deserved the win today,” de Minaur said after the match. “He played too good in the fourth and fifth sets. He kind of, in my eyes, just let go and started swinging freely, caught a little purple patch. Yeah, it was too good in the end.”

The victory improved Rublev’s 2024 season record to 8-0 and ended a 0-5 skid against Top 10 opponents. He’s through to his 10th major quarterfinal against Sinner.

Around Melbourne Park

No. 9 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic reached her second Australian Open women’s quarterfinals after ending the run of 16-year-old Russian upstart Mirra Andreeva, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, in an hour and 59 minutes on John Cain Arena Sunday.

Krejcikova outpointed Andreeva 92-74, benefiting from 32 winners and six breaks of her opponent’s serve. The 2021 Roland Garros champion lost twice to Andreeva last year, at Wimbledon by retirement and in Beijing. Now, Krejcikova is through to the last eight against No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

“I’m really happy that I’m in a quarterfinal because I had really difficult matches,” said Krejcikova, whose first AO quarterfinal came in 2022. “To compare it with the last time, I don’t really remember the last time, so I don’t really remember the feelings and the emotions that I had.

“This year, it’s a new year. It’s a different tournament. I just go on and I just fight for every single ball.”

Sunday’s Australian Open results

Monday’s Australian Open order of play

By the numbers

Two Middle Sunday attendance records were set at Australian Open 2024 today. The day session crowd of 55,160 eclipsed the previous record of 53,830 set in 2020. Coupled with a night session attendance of 21,635, Day 8 drew a grand total of 76,795 fans, which broke the old Day/Night mark of 72,310.

“Quotable …”

“I don’t think I’ve been too many times in the situations like this one today where I won 6-Love, 6-Love. I think one of my first Roland Garros main draw appearances, maybe the first one where I qualified, and played Robby Ginepri, I remember I was 6-love, 6-love, 3-love.

“The tension in the third set, it was so big, whether he’s going to win a game or not. Crowd wanted him to win a game and be in the match. I almost felt like it’s good to give away the game, just to be able to reset and refocus because the tension is growing as more the match progresses without him winning a game.

“I think, of course, it’s tough for him, but also for me to be able to kind of not think about that, not think about the triple bagel.

“So, yeah, I was happy that got that out of the way, 1-all third set, then kind of focused on what I need to do to close out the match.”

— Men’s top seed Novak Djokovic, asked during his post-match news conference Sunday if he’s ever felt sorry for an opponent and if he thought of achieving a triple-bagel.