Taylor Fritz made his first ATP Tour final at 2016 Memphis as a 145th-ranked wild card when he was just 18. In the more than three years since, that’s been on his mind. The American has wanted to take that next step and lift his first tour-level trophy.
Fritz finally earned his maiden triumph on Saturday, defeating compatriot Sam Querrey 6-3, 6-4 in 61 minutes to win the Nature Valley International in Eastbourne. It’s almost fitting that the 21-year-old did it at this ATP 250 tournament, at which he made his ATP Tour debut in 2015 when it was held in Nottingham.
“It’s so amazing. I almost can’t even believe it. I’m still trying to take it in,” Fritz said. “I’ve wanted to win a Tour title ever since I made the final of one when I was 18. It feels like I’ve just been waiting so long. I’m so happy.”
If Fritz was nervous to start his second championship match, playing against a 10-time ATP Tour titlist, he certainly didn’t show it. The 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier broke to love in his first return game of the match, and he never looked back. It was an especially strong start considering Querrey had only lost serve twice all week entering the final to lead the tournament.
But even though the Americans split their first four FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, Fritz was in command of the baseline rallies once they got to neutral. Fritz was also more solid, whereas unforced errors in key moments plagued Querrey.
The veteran had a chance to set a solid tone in the second set when he took a 40/0 lead on his serve. But a number of forehand errors allowed Fritz to turn the game around and earn his second break of the match, taking a commanding lead. And Fritz stormed to his biggest victory yet, closing out his win with an ace down the T, throwing both arms up in celebration.
“Incredibly tough. I had to play my absolute best today to win,” Fritz said. “This is Sam’s first tournament back in a long time, so a big congratulations to him for going all the way to the final after being injured and being out. He’s going to be extremely dangerous at Wimbledon, as he always is.”
Three of Fritz and Querrey’s four previous matches went to a deciding set, and the fourth match was won by Fritz 7-6(1) 7-5. But this battle was not as tightly contested. Fritz joins Andy Roddick (Eastbourne) and Steve Johnson (Nottingham) as American champions at this event, and he joins Matteo Berrettini as the only players to win both an ATP Tour title and an ATP Challenger Tour trophy in 2019.
“I really hope that I can continue on and progress the way Andy did and follow in his footsteps,” Fritz said of being the first American to triumph in Eastbourne since Roddick.
Fritz saved the only break point he faced against Querrey, and that came in his second service game. The World No. 42 won 89 per cent of his first-serve points. For his efforts, he will climb to a career-high ATP Ranking on Monday thanks to the 250 points he adds to his tally. Fritz also earns $117,925 in prize money.
This was Querrey’s first tournament since Houston due to a nagging abdominal injury. He leaves Eastbourne with $63,765 and gains 150 points.
Did You Know?
This was the first all-American final in this ATP 250 tournament’s history (since 1995). It was also the first all-American final on the ATP Tour since 2018 Atlanta (Isner d. Harrison).
Source: ATP Tour
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