It was a learning experience for American teen wildcard Taylor Fritz, who stormed to an early lead in the final of the Memphis Open in his first ATP final on Sunday, but in the end fell to the experienced Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-4.
“It’s amazing to win four [Memphis titles] in a row,” Nishikori said. “It was a tough start again today, but I managed it better. I played better tennis as the match went on and I’m happier with the second set. I only gave him a few points on my serve in the last few games…We practiced five or six times the past few years in California, so I know how he plays. I never beat him before, so I was happy to beat him in a match.”
Fritz came out of the gates firing from the baseline and off serve, jumping out to a 3-0 lead, but the remainder of the match was the American searching for that line between the proper aggression and staying in baseline rallies. Points were punctuated by numerous points where Fritz would force short returns, but then run up and hit before scampering back to the baseline rather than ending points at the net.
The world No. 145 18-year-old Fritz reached his first ATP final in only his third tour-level event. Let the massive amounts of pressure and “Next American!” shouting begin.
Unlike Pete Sampras, who he has a passing likeliness to in his lanky frame, Fritz seems hesitant to come to the net although he has a study volley and net sense. But like Sampras he seems to have more explosive talent then he knows what to do with, while waiting for his teenage body to come into its own.
“I need to get my body stronger and I can continue to play at this level,” said Fritz, who joined former world No. 1 Americans Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Andy Roddick, and former No. 2 Michael Chang as 18-year-old Americans to reach an ATP final in the last 30 years.
“[Nishikori] started off a little tentative and was leaving some balls for me to step in and hit. He was making some mistakes, but he loosened up and started playing much better.”
It was the 11th career title for Nishikori and his first since Washington last year.
All eyes will be on Fritz this week at the Delray Beach Open in Delray Beach, Fla.
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