In a battle of two of the ATP's "Next Generation" campaign, 18-year-old American Frances Tiafoe came out victorious over his fellow compatriot Taylor Fritz 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 in one hour and 36 minutes on Thursday. The first round matchup took place at the prestigious ATP Indian Wells masters event.
Tiafoe struck nine aces on his way past Fritz as he sets up a second round matchup against 15th seed David Goffin who received a first round bye. Both teenage Americans have been quickly on the rise up the world rankings as they have transitioned from the Juniors to the ATP World Tour. Fritz is on a career-high ranking of 80 in the world and Tiafoe is just behind his career high ranking of 176 as he currently stands at 177 in the world. Tiafoe had come into the match against his opponent as a slight underdog. Fritz has started to distance himself from many of the young players upcoming on tour as he reached the Memphis Open finals where he was defeated 4-6, 4-6 by Kei Nishikori.
It was the first head-to-head matchup on the main tour for the two Americans who are also friends off tour. Considering they are both 18 their should be more battles for many years to come between the two. The world number 80 had to have some nerves coming in as he was playing the favorite role in a match on the professional ranks. Considering the two know each other so well it also had play in their minds too. Four of 11 break points won for the victor was the difference in the three set contest as Fritz converted on three of seven break point opportunities.
The two Americans got to battle it out on Stadium 1 in front of home fans. BNP Paribas Open officials made sure they had the spotlight this week as the two players both received automatic main draw wild cards. It has been a promising start for Americans so far as qualifying saw many earn their way into the main draw as well.
Tiafoe Gets Solid Start
It was clear from the start of the match that Tiafoe came out with a nothing to lose mentality as he was not the favorite in the match. Fritz seemed like he was not hitting and serving as freely as he would like. The world number 177 continued to hold comfortable as he won 92 percent of his 1st serve points. An aggressive mindset straight off the serve on the next shot allowed the American to get the advantage early on in points. Tiafoe did not face any break points all set and it helped him on the return side. He put full effort on every return game which paid off to give him two breaks of serve off of six opportunities.
The American wrapped up the set 6-3 and in efficient fashion.
Fritz Gets Things Level
The second set was a different story from the first. Fritz was determined to turn things around and started getting in a groove that he had yet found. He was suffering on both the service and return sides. The big difference was Tiafoe's decrease of service statistics and Fritz improving on his first serve points.
The first game saw the world number 80 breaking his opponent's serve right away to gain a 1-0 lead. A hold might have been in the cards but Tiafoe then steered the ship back as he broke back and then held for a 2-1 lead. From that point on the higher ranked American broke another two times while avoiding another break point faced in the second set. Fritz converted three of six break points won allowed him to take the second set quickly 6-2. A great 90 percent of points won on his first serve was a big part in his efforts to getting the match on level terms.
Tiafoe Strikes Back And Gets Last Blood
Although the world number 80 had got his way in the second set he still had yet to completely get back to his top play. A dip in Tiafoe's form allowed an opening for him to get the lead in the second set.
The world number 177 got 70 percent of first serves in during the deciding set and winning 76 percent of first serve points won. With his serve being on Fritz was unable to get his teeth into points on the return side causing him to have his weaponry become a non factor. The world number 80 had only one break point opportunity and was unable to convert while Tiafoe took the upper hand with one break which gave him the path to the victory.
With a 5-3 lead Tiafoe remained determined and dug deep in the sixth game as it went to deuce. After getting the game to match point on AD-in he struck the final blow to take the set 6-3 and book his place into the second round.
With the victory Tiafoe shows he can get it done in the latter stages of matches and gains important ranking points on the masters level. This should give him confidence going into a tough test with seasoned player Goffin.