For Taylor Fritz, the difference between reaching the Grand Slam quarter-finals for the first time and missing out again narrowed to three points in a 3.5-hour five-set loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Open. Australia.
Fritz, 24, was aiming to put an American back in the quarterfinals of a major tournament. Tennys Sandgren in 2020 was the last to do so, reaching the last eight in Australia.
Last year, for the first time since 2015, no American reached the quarter-finals of a major. And after Maxime Cressy lost in four sets to US Open champion Daniil Medvedev in the Monday afternoon heat, it was all down to Fritz.
The No. 20 seed won the first set over Tsitsipas – last year’s French Open runner-up – and, after giving up the second, took the lead again by winning the third set with a crossover forehand at the curling at 10:42 p.m.
This is where experience made the difference at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Park’s main show ground. Fritz was playing in the fourth round for the first time in his 22nd Grand Slam event and was 0-5 against the top 5 players in the majors.
Tsitsipas had been here before and had plenty of support in the stands from Melbourne’s large Greek community.
Tsitsipas rallied from two sets to beat Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals last year before losing in the semis to Medvedev. He went a step further at Roland Garros.
So when Fritz gave him a break point chance in the ninth game of the fifth set, only his second look in the set, Tsitsipas stepped up. Fritz scored a volley to give Tsitsipas the break, and the fourth-seeded Greek cruised to a 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory two minutes after midnight to wrap up the eighth day.
“At the end of the day, I had a bit of a hard time finishing some points that I needed to finish,” Fritz said. “He served really well under pressure, but I can’t give him those breaks I made.
“The three times I got busted were more than giveaways from me, and not so much anything he did other than play me.”
Still, Fritz said he would take a lot of positives out of a tough loss.
“I felt like I played pretty well,” he said. “I definitely could have won that game.”
It wasn’t just a feeling either. The stats were really close. Tsitsipas hit 53 winners and committed 44 unforced errors; Fritz had 52 winners against 37 unforced errors.
And the serve and return percentages were comparable. The big difference was on break point conversions: Tsitsipas converted three of his five chances, while Fritz was 2 of 15.
On Wednesday, Tsitsipas will face number 11 Jannik Sinner, who ended Australia’s hopes in the men’s tie with a 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-4 victory over Alex de Minaur. Medvedev will continue his bid to become the first man in the Open era to claim his second Grand Slam title at the very next major when he faces No.9 Felix Auger-Aliassime, who rallied to beat the champion of the US Open 2014 Marin Cilic 2- 6, 7-6 (7), 6-2, 7-6 (4).
Tsitsipas said it took him a while to figure out how to deal with the way Fritz brought the game to him.
“I knew it was going to get physical. I kept reminding myself, go ahead, do the work. Do not abandon. A little more patience,” he said. “It was important to have the crowd with me. I feel like they had my back when things got tough.
“It was important to have that kind of atmosphere today, and it paid off in the end.”
More AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports