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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, October 15, 2021

 
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No. 31-seeded Taylor Fritz fought off two match points stunning third-seeded Alexander Zverev 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) to reach his first Masters semifinal at Indian Wells.

Photo credit: BNP Paribas Open Facebook

A stark shadow crept across the purple court as Taylor Fritz faced a bleak 2-5 deficit in the final set.

A fired-up Fritz focused solely on the ball—and opportunity—to realize revival.

More: Dimitrov Rallies Into Indian Wells Semifinals

The 31st-seeded Fritz fought off two match points roaring back to stun third-seeded Alexander Zverev 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) and reach his first Masters 1000 semifinal at Indian Wells.




Teetering on the ledge of loss, Fritz never flinched fighting off one match point in the eighth game and another in the ninth game.

The man who used to visit the BNP Paribas Open as a kid played with poise and power at crunch time as a jittery Zverev blinked double-faulting twice to gift the break when he served for the semifinals at 5-4.

Riding his electric forehand, Fritz asserted his baseline aggression racing out to a 4-0 lead in the tiebreaker before closing out a massive victory in two hours, 20 minutes becoming the first American man since Jack Sock in 2017 to reach the Indian Wells semifinals.

“I was really down and out, but I just found a way to put myself into it,” Fritz said. “I really wanted to make him have to close me out. I was able to get back into the match.

“Normally, I’d be pretty nervous in those situations—that third-set tiebreaker—but I just felt so confident being aggressive, going after my game. It just feels really, really great to play well with the pressure on and get through it.”

The Olympic gold-medal champion felt spiking stress when he served for his first Indian Wells semifinal knowing both top-seeded Daniil Medvedev and second-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas were both out. A tense Zverev double faulted twice, shoveled a 76 mph second serve into the box and paid the price as Fritz broke to level at 5-all.

A red-hot Zverev had won 20 of his last 21 matches with his lone loss coming to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic at the US Open.

None of that mattered much to Fritz, who shattered his 0-10 record vs. Top 5-ranked opponents.




Empowered by the loud crowd, which included Rocket Rod Laver, and his growing confidence, Fritz commanded the center of the court and rolled through 19 of the last 28 points.

“The biggest thing the match point down I just wanted to make him serve it out. So I just fought as hard as I could to try and hold that game,” Fritz said. “I got fortunate in his service game and then from there I just felt like I was in control.

“I felt like really good under the pressure. It’s amazing especially the way that match ended—just such high emotions until the very end with the crowd. The crowd was amazing it’s a dream come true.”

Dream day continues a historic week for Fritz, who knocked off world No. 7 Matteo Berrettini and 14th-ranked Jannik Sinner in succession. His triumph over world No. 3 Zverev makes this the first time Fritz has defeated two Top 10 players in the same tournament sending him into tomorrow’s semifinal showdown vs. surprise semifinalist Nikoloz Basilashvili, who toppled Tsitsipas in today’s first quarterfinal.

Improbable comebacks inspire Fritz, who suffered a torn right meniscus at Roland Garros in June and was carted off the court in a wheelchair. In a mind-blowing return, Fritz not only made it back at Wimbledon a little more than three weeks later, he reached the third round bowing to Zverev in four tight sets at SW19.

The California native played comeback kid today roaring back from a set down for the fifth time this year.

The pair traded breaks to open as Zverev double-faulted away his break lead in the second game. Both men settled in on serve: Fritz fired through a love hold and Zverev answered with an emphatic two-ace hold to even after four games.

Hard-hitting rallies between power players escalated in the seventh game when Fritz misfired on a pair of backhands gifting the break and a 4-3 lead to Zverev with hands raised.

The third-seeded German stamped his first love hold of the day closing the 37-minute opener.

Tennis Express

The 6’4” Fritz was flicking back stretched returns applying pressure in the fourth game of the second set. Fritz hammered a drive into the corner, followed it forward and knocked off an angled volley breaking for a 3-1 second-set lead.

Serving for the set at 5-4, Fritz cleared open court with a short kick serve but instead of hitting to the open court he tried squeezing a shot behind Zverev and missed the mark falling to 30-all.




On set point, Fritz found the tape with a backhand but came right back to draw a netted backhand for a second set point.

Fritz came in behind a drop shot and read Zverev’s bullet pass somehow blocking back a two-handed self-preservation stab volley to take the second set with a smile.

Resetting to start the decider, Zverev lasered a forehand down the line in a superb strike that helped him gain break point. In an electric exchange, Fritz made a lunging forehand stab volley to extend the point before Zverev punctuated a 20-shot rally bolting a backhand down the line to break for 2-0.

The 39th-ranked American did such good work at net for much of the match that you could understand Fritz’s frustration when he bumped a sliding backhand into net then bashed his Head racquet off the net in disgust. That miscue proved costly: instead of a break point for Fritz, it was game point for Zverev who snapped his eighth ace for a 3-0 lead in the final set.

Bidding to become the first American man to reach the Indian Wells semifinals since Jack Sock, Fritz continued to hammer away from the baseline, while Zverev worked to extend his lead. Zverev thumped a bounce smash into the corner holding for 5-2.

The Olympic champion shoveled a forehand pass down the line provoking an errant volley from a stretched Fritz for match point in the eighth game. A crackling rally ended with Zverev netting a slice. Fritz bolted a 126 mph ace down the T to end the eighth game and force Zverev to serve it out.

To that point, Zverev had only coughed up two double faults all day but the jitters of closing time restricted his right arm.

After three faults in a row, Zverev went huge slashing a 135 mph ace down the T for a second match point. Zverev put an index finger to his lips to punctuate the point, but double faulted a second time in a row on ad side. Another missed serve and wild backhand gave the American break point. Zverev pushed a 76 mph second serve over net and paid the price as Fritz pounded a backhand down the line breaking for 4-5.

The crowd screamed support for the Californian and a confident Fritz was fueled by the fans breezing through a love hold—his third straight game—forging a 5-all deadlock.




Torching his forehand with venom, Fritz froze Zverev blazing a diagonal forehand to force the final tiebreaker after two hours, 13 minutes of high drama.

A tight Zverev hit his fifth double fault on the first point to gift the mini break. Behind the doubles alley on the defensive, Fritz roped a running forehand to flip the rally then banged a backhand winner. Flying forward, Fritz knocked off a high forehand volley for 3-0.

The Fritz forehand and second serve were superior to Zverev when it mattered most. Fritz flashed a forehand down the line for 5-1. Curling a crosscourt forehand, Fritz closed a fierce win in two hours, 20 minutes.

 

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