Fritz Survives Paris Thriller
The American was made to work for every point in a 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over the World No. 201, who gave little away in his first main draw match at a major.
A raucous crowd braved rainy conditions in Paris and was rewarded with a see-saw three-hour, 34-minute encounter between Indian Wells champion Fritz and 22-year-old Grand Slam novice Rodriguez Taverna.
“I wasn't too surprised,” said Fritz after the match. “I knew kind of what to expect and I knew that he had won three matches in a row, [his] first main draw, the guy's obviously playing his best tennis.
“He's really confident, he's got nothing to lose playing me, so I expected his level to be high and I think the match was tough.”
For much of the match there was little to choose between the two players, despite their contrasting experience, but World No. 14 Fritz found something extra in the fifth set to set a second-round meeting with Bernabe Zapata Miralles.
A dramatic opening set featured six breaks of serve before Fritz prevailed in a tie-break, but it was clear the American was in a battle in his first tour-level meeting with the Argentine. That was made even more evident when Rodriguez Taverna levelled the match by claiming the only break of the second set in the eighth game, his on-court energy and high-powered groundstrokes garnering strong support from the crowd.
Although rain interrupted a pulsating encounter with Fritz leading at 3-1 in the third set, the to-and-fro continued after the resumption. Fritz appeared to have finally found a path to victory when his clean ballstriking guided him to a 3-1 lead in the fifth set, but the American was pegged back again as the tenacious Rodriguez Taverna reclaimed the break.
Fritz's greater consistency with his groundstrokes proved key as he found one extra push to break Rodriguez Taverna again in the eighth game, and this time he did not falter on serve. The American let out a burst of emotion as he converted his first match point, despite having struck 39 winners to his opponent’s 54.
Fritz reached his maiden Grand Slam fourth round at January’s Australian Open, and the 24-year-old will hope that run proves to be a watershed moment as he aims to back up his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title in Indian Wells by establishing himself as a title challenger at major championships.
Monday’s win moves the American to a 5-5 match record at Roland Garros, where his best previous performance is a third-round run from 2020.
“I think I play pretty well on clay, but it's very matchup based,” said Fritz. “You get a lot of guys that grew up playing on [it] and that's what suits their game and so they're much more comfortable on it than I am…But as far as my potential to beat people, I think that that's still the same.”
Prior to the rain interruption, Filip Krajinovic upset 17th seed Reilly Opelka with a convincing 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-3 win to reach the second round for the third time in six main draw appearances at Roland Garros.
After edging the first set via a tie-break the Serbian began to read the Opelka serve more effectively in sets two and three, breaking three times in total on his way to a one-hour, 49-minute victory.
The win moves Krajinovic level at 1-1 in his ATP Head2Head series with Opelka. The American triumphed in straight sets in the pair’s sole previous meeting, which also took place in the French capital at the 2021 Rolex Paris Masters.
Krajinovic is in confident mood on the clay after he reached the third round at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome, a run that included impressive wins over Frances Tiafoe and Andrey Rublev. His next opponent in Paris will be qualifier Borna Gojo or lucky loser Alessandro Giannessi.