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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, March 8, 2018

 
Taylor Fritz

Taylor Fritz continued a strong start to the season, saving a match point to subdue buddy Reilly Opelka and reach the Indian Wells second round.

Photo credit: Dan Huerlimann/Beelde Images

INDIAN WELLS—The pro circuit is hardly child’s play, but time with his child has helped Taylor Fritz manage tennis growing pains.

Fritz faced friendly fire today from buddy Reilly Opelka fighting off a match point in the second-set tie break to reach the BNP Paribas Open second round with a 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4 victory.

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The 20-year-old possesses a power baseline game, but facing the 6-foot-11 Opelka, a groomsman at Fritz’s 2016 wedding to wife Racquel, can be a disorientating experience.

Fritz survived 19 aces from the Delray Beach quarterfinalist and saved a match point at 5-6 in the second-set tie break, prevailing in two hours, 20 minutes.

“The way he was returning my first serve there wasn’t much I could do,” Fritz told the media afterwards. “I felt I was hitting my spots. He was just lasering returns back. I had to just kind of accept it and deal with it and tell myself if that’s how it’s gonna be, if it’s gonna keep going then it’s too good and it’s just one of those days where he just played too good for me.

“I was down a set and match point in the tie break and I honestly didn’t feel like I did anything wrong in the match. When someone like that is on, someone who plays a big game you just have to kind of weather the storm as best you can.”

Maintaining calm amid the competitive storm has been key to a bounce back season for the 74th-ranked Californian, who has posted a 14-3 record on the ATP Challenger Tour Circuit this year.




Fritz cites the influence of coach Paul Annacone, who previously coached Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and Tim Henman, with strengthening his mental game. Annacone, who also worked with Stan Wawrinka during grass season, has joined veteran David Nainkin on Fritz’s coaching team.

“Everything is just feeling good,” Fritz said. “I’ve got a full-time physio. I added recently Paul Annacone, who is helping coach me as well along with David Nainkin. I think Paul’s already helped me with my game, with the mental side of it. I just feel so much more comfortable with my game, the competitiveness on court, how I’m coming up in big moments. I’m doing a lot of things I did when I initially got up the rankings when I got up to 50.”

Success breeds success. Fritz said learning to win when his best tennis eludes him has been key to his strong start.

“I’m having a really good year so far and I feel I can keep it going,” Fritz said. “Some of the stuff (Annacone) told me it’s tough to explain, more mental stuff about attitude, not getting down on yourself, trusting in the process, getting better kind of managing your average because you’re not always going to you play your best and just winning—a lot of winning.”

Fritz says he’s in a good place off court too. His wife was on hand to watch today’s match and his favorite training partner, 14-month-old son Jordan, has brought off-court joy.

“It’s awesome because I can interact with him so much more,” Fritz said. “It’s so much fun the one thing he loves is when I’ll give him a ball and he throws it and he loves when I’ll run and pick it up and pass it back. It’s a little bit of training for me I guess and he thinks it’s pretty funny.”

Next up for Fritz is a second-round clash with fellow 20-year-old NextGen star Andrey Rublev, one of the hardest hitters in the game who was runner-up in Doha in January and knocked off both Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin en route to the US Open quarterfinals last summer.

 

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