Fritz Completes Trio Of American Wins At St. Petersburg Open

Taylor Fritz (photo: St. Petersburg Open)

ST. PETERSBURG/WASHINGTON, October 26, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

The St. Petersburg Open, in Russia’s second-largest city and its cultural hub, has been a fixture on the ATP Tour every year except once since 1995. The port city on the Baltic Sea is host this week to a solid, 28-player field that includes four Top 20 players: World No. 6 Andrey Rublev of Russia, World No. 13 Denis Shapovalov of CanadaWorld No. 20 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain and recent VTB Kremlin Cup champion Aslan Karatsev of Russia, who moved up to World No. 19 this week after beating Marin Cilic in Sunday’s title match.

The second day of play in this ATP 250 indoor hard court tournament at Sibur Arena was highlighted by seven first-round singles matches featuring three American players as well as by the No. 1 doubles team of Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil, who easily beat wild cards Jonathan Erlich of Israel and Andrei Vasilevski of Belarus, 6-1, 6-4.

Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares

Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares (photo: St. Petersburg Open)

Tuesday’s featured singles match between No. 5 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States and 72nd-ranked qualifier Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland, was dominated by the 28th-ranked American, who won 6-1, 6-4 in an hour and seven minutes for his 27th victory of the season.

Ahead 2-1, Fritz won 12 of 13 points during a stretch in which he broke the young, 22-year-old Finn twice to capture the opening set 6-1. Then, Fritz, 23, continued his extremely high level of play by breaking Ruusuvuori to begin the second set. He quickly consolidated it for a 2-0 lead. Although Ruusuvuori got one of the breaks back to level the set score at 3-all, Fritz immediately broke back and went on to serve out the win on his second match-point opportunity.

It was an overall fine performance by Fritz, who hit 11 aces and broke Ruusuvuori four times in six tries. He outpointed his opponent 60-44 to move into the second round against fellow American Tommy Paul.

Fritz was asked during his on-court TV interview if he had a fan club at the match since there were shouts of “Let’s go Taylor, let’s go!” that could be heard during the match. He smiled at the thought that one could exist and said, “I don’t know. I definitely love getting the support – even when I’m all the way [around the world] in Russia. I appreciate it.”

Botic van de Zandschulp

Botic van de Zandschulp (photo: St. Petersburg Open)

Meanwhile, US Open quarterfinalist Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands advanced to the second round with a 6-2, 6-2 win over 82nd-ranked Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka for his 14th win in his past 17 matches covering all competitions.

Next, the 69th-ranked Dutch qualifier will play #NextGenATP rising star Sebastian Korda of the United States in the second round with a berth in the quarterfinals going to the winner. On Monday, the No. 8 seed Korda, ranked 38th, defeated 248th-ranked wild card Nino Serdarusic of Croatia, 7-6 (2), 7-5. It was Korda’s 25th tour-level match win of the season and he did it in back of 11 aces.

Around the St. Petersburg Open

• No. 46 Ilya Ivashka of Belarus began the day with a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 52 Laslo Djere of Serbia. Ivashka, who saved all four break points he faced, outpointed Djere 60-40. The victory advanced the Winston-Salem champion to Wednesday’s second round against top seed Andrey Rublev of Russia.

• Spain’s 92nd-ranked Pablo Andújar defeated No. 41 Federico Delbonis of Argentina, 6-2 7-6 (1) to move into the second round against No. 2 seed Denis Shapovalov. Andújar broke Delbonis’s serve five times en route to victory. It was the ninth straight loss by the Argentine lefty, whose last win came at Gstaad on clay in July.

• No. 54 Tommy Paul, one of four Americans in the draw, won 82 percent of his first-serve points and started with a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 58 Pedro Martinez to advance against No. 5 seed Taylor Fritz on Thursday.

• No. 57 John Millman of Australia easily beat 373rd-ranked wild card Yshai Oliel of Israel, 6-1, 6-1 to advance to play No. 4 seed Aslan Karatsev on Thursday. It was Millman’s eighth win in his last 10 against left-handed opponents.

• No. 56 Mackenzie McDonald of the United States eliminated 105th-ranked qualifier Egor Gerasimov of Belarus, 7-5, 6-4, to set up a second-round match against No. 3 seed Roberto Bautista Agut. It was the American No. 7’s 42nd win in all competitions this season.

• In an all-Russian doubles tussle, Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev defeated wild cards Evgenii Tiurnev and Daniil Golubev, 6-1, 6-1.

Tuesday’s St. Petersburg Open results

By the numbers

Three of the top four Russians in the FedEx ATP Rankings are competing this week at the St. Petersburg Open. World No. 6 Andrey Rublev, who won last year’s St. Petersburg Open title, is the top seed for the first time in his sixth appearance.

Besides Rublev, the other former St. Petersburg champion in the main draw is Marin Cilic of Croatia, who captured the title in 2011. The 35th-ranked Cilic is unseeded in this year’s tournament and plays his first-round match on Wednesday afternoon against No. 43 Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain.