Fritz Defends Delray Beach Open Crown, Beats Good Friend Paul In Final

Taylor Fritz (photo: Andrew Patron/Delray Beach Open)

DELRAY BEACH/WASHINGTON, February 19, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Americans Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul put on a buddy show for the Florida snowbird fans that flocked to see the rain-delayed Delray Beach Open final Monday afternoon at the Delray Beach Tennis Club. It was a good one, too.

By the end of the cloudy, windy afternoon, it was Fritz who showed he was not afraid to grind or to play tough defensive tennis.

Friendships aside, Fritz beat Paul, 6-2, 6-3, in a one-hour and 40-minute battle of 26-year-olds to earn his seventh career ATP Tour singles title and successfully defend his Delray Beach Open title. He’s 6-0 in tour finals since the start of the 2022 season (7-5 overall) after a 1-5 start earlier in his career. That’s persistence, folks.

The top-seeded Fritz started well and came on strong at the end to win the last three games of the final. He secured the title on his first match-point opportunity after No. 3 seed Paul netted a 12th-shot forehand return.

Fritz was attempting to win his first ATP Tour title of 2024 and become the second player in Delray Beach Open tournament history following Jason Stoltenberg in 1996-97 to successfully defend the title. Meanwhile, Paul, who recently won the Dallas Open and was in the midst of a career-best seven-match winning streak, looked to become the first American to win back-to-back tour-level titles in consecutive weeks since John Isner accomplished the feat in 2017 at Newport and Atlanta.

As Paul would soon find out, it wasn’t meant to be his day. In their fifth tour-level meeting, it was all Fritz. The California native has now won three of their five tussles.

“There’s a lot of history there [between us],” Fritz said of his close friendship with Paul, whom he has faced numerous times since both were juniors. “You learn to put it aside. When it come to playing him, I have a good record.”

On serve through the first three games of the opening set, Fritz broke to go ahead 3-1 after setting up the break point when Paul netted a forehand return that quashed a 17-shot rally. Paul appeared frazzled by a time violation he received from chair umpire Greg Allensworth. Next, Fritz consolidated the break to push ahead 4-1 as Paul struggled with his forehand returns. Soon, Fritz saved a break point to hold for 5-2 with his second of five aces, then broke Paul to win the 38-minute first set after the American No. 2 sent a ninth-shot forehand long.

The second set was highlighted by a couple of lengthy service holds by Fritz: a 14-pointer for 3-2 and a 22-point, eight-deuce marathon for 4-3. Fritz saved a total of four break points — seven total on the afternoon — through grit and determination. Nothing seemed to upset the American No. 1. Soon, he broke Paul to go up 5-3 with a nifty forehand passing shot winner. Finally, Fritz served a love hold and raised his arms in victory. He outpointed Paul 73-54.

“I had a long list of things I needed to do well, but I think a lot of that went out the window when we realized the conditions for the match, [that it was] going to be so windy,” Fritz said in an on-court interview before the trophy ceremony.  “On both sides, I had different ideas of what I wanted to do because [I was] just limited with the wind. I tried to serve as best I could, which it got me out of some trouble. I started to find it at the end. But it’s incredibly tough to play, do what you want to do when it’s windy like this.”

As it happened, it was the first time Fritz had successfully defended a title – and he did it without losing a set in his wins over Nuno Borges of Portugal, Rinky Hikikata of Australia, Marcos Giron of the United States and Paul.

“I think there were some questions about how I was physically feeling,” Fritz said. “I didn’t play one of the rubbers at Davis Cup. I wasn’t feeling amazing after Australia, so it’s great to come here and feel like I’m moving and physically I’m definitely there and can keep playing.

“I don’t need to take any time off to recover and mentally, it was tough conditions, especially today. I kind of just powered through it. All the pressure was on me this week defending the title and I was able to get through it.”

Cash and Galloway win first ATP Tour doubles title

Julian Cash of Great Britain and Robert Galloway of the United States rallied from a set down to defeat No. 1 seeds Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico and Neal Skupski of Great Britain, 5-7, 7-5, 10-2, in an hour and 48 minutes to win their first ATP Tour doubles title.

The British/American duo, who were seeded third, improved to 10-8 on tour-level (6-5 in 2024) as a team. Against the 17th-ranked Gonzalez and Skupski, who are playing together for the first time this season, Cash and Galloway converted four of five break-point opportunities and outpointed their opponents 73-70.

Last year, Cash and Galloway won back-to-back Challenger Tour titles at Mouilleron-le-Captif and Malaga, and made their ATP Tour debut in Atlanta. This week, ranked No. 23 on the ATP Live Doubles Team Rankings, they reached their first ATP Tour final together without dropping a set.

Galloway is the first American doubles champion in Delray Beach since the Bryan brothers in 2020.

“It’s been an unbelievable week,” Galloway said, quoted by the ATP Tour website. “I love playing in Delray and playing with Julian has been special. We hope to be in a couple more finals, so it isn’t going to be our last one hopefully. But to take advantage of our first one is great.”

Cash added: “I had three finals and came up short, so obviously [that] adds a little bit of pressure to the next one. But delighted to come through and feels great to get the win.”

By the numbers

For the fourth time in the tournament’s 32-year history, both singles finalists, Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul, were from the United States. It’s also the second straight week that two Americans met in an ATP Tour final following the Dallas Open, in which Paul prevailed over Marcos Giron.

“Quotable …”

“He won the break points and I didn’t win the break points. That was pretty much the difference. I think I came out with maybe a little too much energy inside and not letting it out. So it maybe looked like I was a little flat, but I definitely wasn’t on the inside.”

— No. 3 seed Tommy Paul of the United States, during his post-match news conference, following his title loss to No. 1 seed Taylor Fritz.