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.
“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'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.