Clutch Fritz Outdoes Isner In Auckland
American Taylor Fritz is No. 50 in the ATP Rankings, but when it comes to playing his best in tie-breaks, he's Top 5.
The 21-year-old exhibited his big-point prowess again on Wednesday, upsetting top seed and No. 10 John Isner 7-6(3), 7-6(5) at the ASB Classic for his second Top 10 win.
“I like to think that one of the strengths of my game is playing under pressure and playing the big moments well. More often than not, the matches I lose, that's where I get let down. So I'm happy to start the year... playing well under pressure and handling those big moments well,” Fritz said.
The 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier was 0-2 against Isner in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and had won none of their five sets. But Fritz didn't let that or Isner's rising ace count – 26 for the match – bother him. He played calm and clean in the tie-breaks, converting his second match point when Isner lifted a backhand long.
“John's beaten me twice before... I really wanted to get the win on him. I knew I could. We had a lot of close points, and it just feels really good to get through that,” he said.
Fritz won 70 per cent (21-9) of the tie-breaks he played in 2018, third on the ATP Tour, according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone, behind only reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev (74%, 17-6) and Brisbane International champion Kei Nishikori (77%, 17-5).
Fritz will next face Brit wild card Cameron Norrie, who beat Portugal's Joao Sousa 7-6(5), 6-4. Norrie, who grew up in Auckland, enjoyed plenty of support from the crowd.
Fritz's countryman Tennys Sandgren also reached the quarter-finals, upsetting third seed Marco Cecchinato of Italy 6-3, 6-3. Sandgren will next meet Argentina's Leonardo Mayer, who saved five of six break points and beat Italian Matteo Berrettini 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3.
Second seed Fabio Fognini picked up where he left off on hard courts, beating Germany's Peter Gojowczyk 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(5). Fognini won his maiden hard court title last year in Los Cabos. He will face Philipp Kohlschreiber for a spot in the semi-finals. The German dismissed #NextGenATP Frenchman Ugo Humbert 6-4, 6-4.
Four-time champion David Ferrer had to retire after only two games (1-1) against Pablo Carreno Busta, who will meet German Jan-Lennard Struff in the quarter-finals. Struff beat wild card Rubin Statham 6-2, 6-1 in 63 minutes.
Marach/Pavic Reach Semi-finals
Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic's quest for a second straight title in Auckland continued on Wednesday, as the top seeds beat Henri Kontinen and Frederik Nielsen 6-3, 7-6(4). Marach and Pavic reached the semi-finals after 77 minutes, saving five of six break points en route to victory.
The Austrian-Croatian pairing will meet Ben McLachlan and Struff or Brisbane champions Marcus Daniell and Wesley Koolhof for a place in the final. Daniell and Koolhof defeated Philipp Oswald and Tim Puetz 6-4, 7-6(1) to reach the quarter-finals.