MEMPHIS, February 14, 2016
Taylor Fritz remains unstoppable at the Memphis Open, as he will square off against top-seed Kei Nishikori on Sunday’s final in Tennessee.
The only 18-year-old history maker from California defeated Ricardas Berankis in the stage of the final four on Saturday 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach his first ever ATP World Tour final. Fritz fired 17 aces and converted five of his eight break point opportunities to prevail in one hour and 40 minutes. The teenager became the youngest US-American to reach a tour level final since 17-year-old Michael Chang claimed the Wembley crown in 1989. He is also the first US-American in a title match since Andy Roddick finished runner-up in Montreal 2002.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Fritz was overwhelmed. “To be here and think that it’s the final is crazy. I’m really excited that I got to this level and I’ve proven myself that I belong here. It’s amazing to have this support. I feel so loved here. It’s the best feeling in the world. I owe a lot to the crowd pumping me up.”
Fritz only won 48% of the total points against Berankis and had to fight back from a set down. “I honestly felt he was unbeatable in the first set,” he added. “He was making me look awful. I didn’t think there was much I could do. I tried to change things up in my game. He was returning my serves and putting me on defence. In the second set, I told myself that the way I was serving wasn’t going to cut it. I needed to crank it up a lot. I started hitting my serves 5-10 miles per hour faster. That was the biggest difference. Once I was holding my serve, it put pressure on him. That’s what allowed me to play my game more and allowed me to win.”
Fritz is now bidding to become the first teenager to capture a title on the ATP World Tour since Marin Cilic lifted the trophy in New Haven in 2008. Yet, he has to end the 16-matches-winning streak of top-seed and three time Memphis champion Kei Nishikori.
The world number seven from Japan beat 2010 champion Sam Querrey in the second semi-final, rallying back 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Nishikori won 79% of his first service points and broke his opponent’s serve three times to seal victory in one hour and 42 minutes. Nishikori reaches the final in Memphis for the fourth straight year.
“It was a tough start for me,” said Nishikori. “He was playing really good tennis, especially with his serve. He was hitting deep and flat and I was on defence all the time. I found my rhythm in the second set, was hitting balls deep and the tactics were working. I tried to be more focused and played more aggressive.”
Nishikori and Fritz will meet for the first time on the tour but know each other pretty well. “We practised a lot in California,” Nishikori explained, referring to Fritz. “We’ve never played in a match, but I know he has a great serve and he’s a little like Sam. He hits a big forehand, backhand and serve. You can see he’s playing great here and I have to have good tactics for tomorrow.”