Five months after a breakout run to the autumn edition of the BNP Paribas Open, Taylor Fritz is back in the final four in 2022.
In a 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-1 victory over Miomir Kecmanovic, the American showed great patience and power to edge the unseeded Serbian.
A deserving winner, Fritz was sharp throughout the nearly two-hour match, save for a nightmare service game that handed his opponent a late break against the run of play in set two. The 20th seed got his first break of the match on his eighth chance early in the decider, then seized the initiative to run away with the win.
“I’m really happy with how it turned out,” Fritz said post-match. “He was playing tough from the baseline. I was maybe giving him a little bit too much. I felt like I couldn’t really string it together on his serve [in the first two sets].
“I just regrouped, found a way in the third. Kind of put more points together in the third set, so that’s what did it for me.”
The Southern California native was already the first American to reach back-to-back Indian Wells quarter-finals since Andy Roddick in 2009-10, and he again matches the former World No. 1 with consecutive semis in the desert.
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Fritz faced two break points at 5-5 in the opening set, but escaped after saving the second one with a brave down-the-line backhand to close a 29-ball rally.
He again showed great shot tolerance in the tie-break as he built a 5/1 lead by drawing errors from his opponent. But the Serb found his range as he measured two imposing winners on the way to levelling at 5/5. Fritz regained a mini-break by taking another lengthy point, patiently working his way forward to bring up set point. A big serve put away the set.
The American stayed on top early in set two, but after five break points went begging, a nightmare service game gifted Kecmanovic a break for 5-3. Fritz could hardly believe it as he followed a forehand miss with three consecutive double faults. He managed to bounce back to create his sixth break point of the set, but could not stop Kecmanovic from serving it out.
“I don’t know what I did in the second set on my serve,” he said in all sincerity. “Like I really don’t want to talk about it. I don’t ever want to think about it again.”
Pushed to expand on his mindset before the final stanza, his answer showed a champion’s mentality: “I was the better player in that set, is what I was telling myself. I had break points in almost every single game he served.”
He proved himself right in set three. A refreshed Fritz finally made his breakthrough on the return on his eighth break chance, then repeated the feat on break point No. 10 as he eased to a 5-0 lead. A love hold finished the job.
Fritz’s semi-final run at the BNP Paribas Open in October sparked what is now a 24-8 run that has included five ATP Tour quarter-finals and a career-best fourth-round Grand Slam showing at the Australian Open.
The 22-year-old Kecmanovic was on a roll himself entering the quarter-final with a 13-5 record on the season, including a win over World No. 6 Matteo Berrettini in the fourth round to match his career-best victory by the ATP Rankings.
World No. 7 Andrey Rublev now awaits the American, who is now one win away from his first ATP Masters 1000 final.
“I’m going to have to be a lot more solid from the baseline,” Fritz said, discussing the keys to ending Rublev’s 13-match winning streak. “I think I will be because I know that I have to be. I think all the matches I’ve played so far, I knew that I can get away with… not ripping everything from the baseline. With him, there’s no question about it.
“So I think just knowing that, I’ll be leaning into my shots a little bit more, playing a bit better, more aggressive from the baseline. But I’ve got to keep serving the way I’ve been serving.”
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