Southern California’s very own Taylor Fritz has made a major breakthrough at home, earning the biggest win of his career over Alexander Zverev, saving two match points in a thrilling 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) decision to reach the final four at a Masters 1000 for the first time.
It was a clash of titanic hitting from the baseline, with both players in sensational form coming into Friday’s afternoon encounter. Zverev has had a career-defining summer, claiming Olympic gold in Tokyo, winning the Cincinnati Masters and pushing World No. 1 Novak Djokovic to the brink in their US Open semifinal.
On the other hand, Fritz made a miraculously quick recovery from knee surgery ahead of Wimbledon to quickly find his footing back on tour and has scored a string of impressive wins at this year’s edition of the BNP Paribas Open, including No. 6 seed Matteo Berrettini, No. 11 seed Jannik Sinner, and, on Friday, the No. 3 seed.
In press this week, Fritz has admitted that although he sees his game as “unfinished,” the finished version of his game is close to way he has played at this tournament so far – and it’s catalyzing the breakthrough he’s been looking for.
“I’m just trying to work as hard as I can, put myself in as many opportunities I can to have big weeks, breakthroughs, just kind of get myself in a good position for when I’m playing my best tennis where I can really have a big breakthrough,” said the American No. 3 after his straight-sets win over Sinner.
Fritz’s biggest challenge of the week, however, would be the German five-time Masters titlist. Both players traded breaks early in the match, though when Zverev broke in the seventh game and held with ease to claim the set it felt like the Rancho Santa Fe native’s home-tournament magic was running out.
But Fritz was able to flip the script in the second set, summoning some of his best tennis to earn a break in the fifth game and riding the wave of confidence for the remainder of the set. On set point, an ill-advised drop shot off the Fritz racquet was met by an easy passing shot by Zverev – or, it should have been easy, if not for some exceptional hand-eye coordination from the American, who struck a perfect reaction volley to win the set and bring a jubilant Stadium 1 to their feet.
In the third set, Zverev set out to right the course having lost his way in the second set to a more aggressive player. Yet up a break and serving for the match with a missed match point in the previous return game, the service yips that have plagued the 2020 US Open finalist throughout his career in the big moments reared their head.
He attempted to hit second-serve bombs to varying success, earning a second match point with a massive 135mph ace. Yet Zverev’s live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword approach to his serving failed him this time, double faulting on another huge second serve and opening the door for Fritz to break back two points layer.
In the decisive tiebreak, spurred on by a boisterous crowd’s enthusiasm for their home player, Fritz returned to the level he reached in the set. The 23-year-old jumped on every short ball left sitting by Zverev and, on his third match point, approached the net to draw one final error and earn him the biggest win of his career.