Fritz Wins Thrilling Tie-Break En Route To Win, Defending Champ Coric Advances In Cincinnati
The American saved five set points in the first-set tie-break before he was gifted the set on his seventh opportunity when Lehecka double faulted. After winning the tie-break 16/14, Fritz dropped just one of his 13 first-serve points in the second set to triumph after one hour and 44 minutes in hot and lively conditions.
"It was probably as hard as I had, just putting the ball into court," Fritz said when asked about the fast conditions. "The courts are fast and bouncy... everything wants to fly and on top of that, everything is super windy. I was just trying to put the ball in court.
"I just had to feel it out at the beginning. As much as I wanted to pull the trigger on big points, if it is not there, it is not there, so you have to do what you feel comfortable and hit the ball you feel you can make under pressure."
Fritz, who reached the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals last year, is currently ninth (2,515 points) in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. Aiming to close the gap on eighth-placed Casper Ruud (2,605) and seventh-placed Holger Rune (3,045 points), he will be eager for a deep run in Cincinnati, where he reached the quarter-finals last year. Ruud and Rune both have first-round byes in Ohio.
The 25-year-old holds a 29-8 record on hard courts this season, highlighted by title runs in Delray Beach and Atlanta. The 21-year-old Lehecka’s best result this year was a quarter-final run at the Australian Open.
"I was a little nervous coming into the match as I know I need to defend my title, so I put a little more expectation on myself," Coric said. "I have watched many of [Korda's] matches at the Australian Open and know him quite well."
After rained ended play on Monday night with Coric 7-6(5), 4-3 ahead, the Croatian came back and finished the job emphatically, holding twice to reach the second round. Last year, Coric came into Cincinnati at No. 152 and posted five Top 20 wins, including Rafael Nadal, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final to lift his first ATP Masters 1000 trophy. The World No. 16 will next meet Hubert Hurkacz or Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka was also on the verge of victory when play stopped on Monday night. The Swiss star, who led Brandon Nakashima 5-2 in the deciding set when they came off, sealed a 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3 win in his first match since reaching the Umag final last month.
The American advanced to the semi-finals in Toronto last week and played with confidence against Kecmanovic, striking 24 winners and saving both break points he faced.
The 26-year-old, currently at a career-high No. 13 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, holds a perfect 9-0 record in first-round hard-court matches this season. Paul will next face Ugo Humbert after the lefty defeated #NextGenATP Frenchman Arthur Fils 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.