01:36 AM GMT March 09, 2018
In an all-American meeting of #NextGenATP stars, Taylor Fritz saved one match point before overcoming his great friend Reilly Opelka 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 to reach the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells on Thursday.
Fritz took two hours and 19 minutes to dispatch Opelka, who was best man at his wedding two years ago, withstanding 19 aces to advance. "Obviously it is always uncomfortable playing someone you are such good friends with... We both do know each other's tricks and tendencies so that comes into play," admitted Fritz.
The 20-year-old recovered from match point down at 5/6 in the second-set tie-break, as Opelka fired wide on his forehand, to reach the Round of 64 for the second year in a row. "I was down a set and match point in the tie-break and I honestly didn't feel like I did anything wrong in the match," said Fritz. "When someone like [Opelka] is on, someone who plays a big game, you just have to weather the storm as best as you can."
Fritz has begun 2018 in fine form with 14 wins from 17 matches on the ATP Challenger Tour, including a title run in Newport Beach. He also reached the quarter-finals last month at the Delray Beach Open, an ATP World Tour 250-level tournament.
The California native used his long history with his close friend to his advantage in a crucial moment of the deciding set before closing out the win. "In the end of the third set, I flicked a backhand down-the-line passing shot on him and he knows, and I know, that I always flick the backhand crosscourt. Maybe he was thinking I would do that there," revealed Fritz.
Fritz will face another #NextGenATP contender for a place in the last 32, as 27th seed Andrey Rublev received a bye into the second round. The encounter will be Fritz and Rublev’s first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting, but that won't stop Fritz from continuing the psychological battles on court. "Now, when I play somebody, if they hear that [I made that change], I can use reverse psychology and just go down the line on every one. It is mind games," said Fritz.
Fellow #NextGenATP star Stefanos Tsitsipas continued his fine run of form, beating Moldova’s Radu Albot 7-6(2), 6-2 to reach the second round. The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships quarter-finalist (l. to Jaziri) saved seven of the nine break points he faced throughout the one-hour, 32-minute match and broke his opponent for the fourth time to seal his spot in the next round.
Borna Coric, who made the semi-finals at the 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals, cruised into the second round with an emphatic 6-0, 6-2 victory over Donald Young. The Croatian took just 58 minutes to advance, converting all five of the break point opportunities he manufactured to book a meeting with 19th seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
Did You Know?
The win marks Fritz's third triumph in Indian Wells. He reached the third round last year, beating then-No. 7 Marin Cilic in the second round.