Taylor Fritz is one of the most promising tennis players that America has to offer, although he has endured a difficult period since his emergence on the ATP World Tour. His struggles continued on the grass of Stuttgart, with the young American failing to make it past the first qualifying round. Fritz has spent a few months away from the game, but on his return has lost in the first round of the Surbiton Challenger in addition to Stuttgart in matches which he entered as heavy favourite. The 19-year-old has time on his side, but he will be keen to prove that his breakout season in the sport was not an anomaly.
Fritz’s best career performance came in just his third ATP tournament, with his run in Memphis the first appearance in a final for eight years by an 18-year-old. He ultimately lost to Kei Nishikori, a mainstay of the top ten in the rankings, but Fritz’s youthful exuberance impressed the tennis world. Fritz consolidated this showing with a quarter-final run in Acapulco, eventually succumbing to compatriot Sam Querrey, and a slightly weaker end to the year could not take the shine of a remarkable season.
Fritz stormed to a career-high ranking of 53 as an 18-year-old, prompting inevitable assertions that he was the next great American hope and a future Grand Slam winner. Of course, few would have expected him to be challenging for those titles while still at a very young age, but the latest tennis odds of Fritz being 250/1 to win Wimbledon accurately reflect how his development has slightly stagnated. Incidentally, the leading American players that Fritz was expected to sit alongside sooner rather than later, Jack Sock and John Isner, are odds of 100/1 to triumph on the grass in London.
American Slam success, in the men’s game at least, does not appear to be on the immediate horizon. However, Jelena Ostapenko’s remarkable run to take the French Open singles title as an unseeded player highlights how a great couple of weeks can change everything. Fritz is a great couple of weeks away from shooting up the rankings. It was his adventures in Memphis that propelled him up the rankings, and it was never really expected that Fritz would consolidate all of those ranking points the following year. He made the last sixteen in 2017’s iteration of the tournament at Memphis, which is still a commendable showing.
Fritz’s success in Memphis and Acapulco, combined with his scope for growth, means that expectations are high of the young American. Pressure can be telling, with perhaps the relative grass-court experience of veteran Marco Chiudinelli the difference in Stuttgart between success and failure. However, the emergence of other young Americans will take the spotlight off Fritz, and this could be a constructive development in his progress.
Frances Tiafoe has soared up the rankings and has held his own against Roger Federer. The big-serving Reilly Opelka reached the quarter-finals of the grass-court challenger in Surbiton and his game should suit the green surface. Opelka looks on course to break the top 100 soon, where other young Americans Jared Donaldson and Ernesto Escobedo already reside with Tiafoe. The future is bright for American tennis, and Fritz will inevitably work his way back up the ranks. With such a deep source of talent for American fans to root for, Fritz should be able to play with less pressure and recapture the heights of 2016.