Happy Birthday, Taylor! Fritz Celebrates With Win In St. Petersburg

Fifth seed beats close friend Paul

Taylor Fritz gave himself the perfect 24th birthday present on Thursday: a win.

The fifth seed defeated close friend Tommy Paul 7-6(3), 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals of the St. Petersburg Open.

“It makes it even tougher,” Fritz said in his on-court interview. “[Tommy is] not just another American, one of my closest friends. It’s never easy playing against a really close friend.”

Although Fritz and Paul have known each other since they were kids, this was their first ATP Head2Head clash. Fritz was better under pressure, saving three of the four break points he faced and converting his two opportunities to triumph after one hour and 34 minutes.

Fritz, who made his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final at Indian Wells, has been playing the best tennis of his career. He will try to maintain his form against Australian John Millman in the last eight.

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Millman upset last week’s Moscow champion Aslan Karatsev, the fourth seed, 6-3, 6-2.

“Congratulations to Aslan for an incredible year and last week lifting a title in his home city, I think that’s pretty special,” Millman said in his on-court interview. “I’ve really enjoyed my time in Russia. I feel like I’m playing really good tennis and it’s nice at the end of the year to be playing at a high level.”

Although Karatsev was unable to advance, another 2021 breakthrough star did. Dutch qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp, who reached the US Open quarter-finals, eliminated eighth seed Sebastian Korda 6-2, 7-5.

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