© SUSAN MULLANE/CAMERAWORK USA,INC.

Taylor Fritz defeats fellow NextGen star Frances Tiafoe in the first round of the Winston-Salem Open

On Seventh Attempt, Fritz Defeats Tiafoe In Winston-Salem

Fritz: "I never beat him before and I really wanted to so badly"

In a meeting of 18-year-old American NextGen stars Monday at the Winston-Salem Open, Taylor Fritz finally got the better of Frances Tiafoe, clinching a 6-1, 6-4 victory.

“I thought I played a really great match from start to finish,” he said. “I didn’t let it get too nervy, which I might have been afraid of closing the match out against him because I never beat him before and I really wanted to so badly. I’m glad with how everything went.”

Fritz had lost to Tiafoe in the six previous meetings of their rivalry – five at the junior level from 2011-14 (two of which came in doubles), followed by their first tour-level clash at the BNP Paribas Open earlier this year. On Monday, he capitalised on three of his five break point chances en route to a 63-minute win.

“When I played him in Indian Wells I was thinking about it too much,” he said. “I wanted it way too bad and that just caused me to play a really tight and nervy match. This time I came out with no expectations, not feeling like I should win, not feeling entitled at all to winning the match, and I think that’s what allowed me to play loose and play free and play a good match.”

NextGen

Fritz, currently a career-high World No. 54, has climbed more than 600 places in the Emirates ATP Rankings in a year and is a lead candidate to be named the 2016 ATP Star Of Tomorrow presented by Emirates. Tiafoe, who claimed his first tour-level win last year as a qualifier in Winston-Salem, has risen 150 spots to No. 124.

“Frances and I were actually talking about that before the match, that it’s crazy where we are right now,” said Fritz. “Neither of us thought we’d be where we are right now, a year later.

“I think this whole group has transitioned really well on the pro tour,” he added, referring to the American NextGen stars. “I think there’s a really long way to go for all of us, but all of us know that, we’re ready put in the work, and we’re all going to push each other. I think soon we’ll all be in these big tournaments playing each other. I think it’ll be a pretty regular thing.”

You May Also Like: Roddick, Blake, Courier Optimistic About American Prospects

Fritz next meets Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, the No. 15 seed.

Czech Jiri Vesely, the 2013 ATP Star Of Tomorrow presented by Emirates, will face defending champion and fifth seed Kevin Anderson in the second round. Vesely opened his campaign with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over lucky loser Tim Van Rijthoven.