Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe are leading tennis’ American revolution
Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe will face off for an ATP 500 title in Tokyo on Sunday 9 October in a match that highlights two of the game’s rising stars.
Fritz and Tiafoe are players with contrasting styles and looks but their match will not be a friendly exhibition outing.
Both men will rightly have their sights set on big-time glory with Fritz winning the Indian Wells Masters title earlier this season and Tiafoe enjoying a run to the US Open semi-finals.
Fritz is set to break back into the top ten thanks to his run in Tokyo and a win will put him very much in the hunt for a place at the ATP Tour finals in Turin.
The lanky 24-year-old from San Diego could move into the top seven on the ATP Race To Turin standings with victory in Tokyo which would see him leapfrog Alexander Zverev, who is unlikely to be fit for the finals anyway, and both Hubert Hurkacz and Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Tiafoe would need to go on an absolute tear to get to Turin but one would imagine a first title of 2022 will serve as sufficient motivation in what will be a battle between the American No 1 and No 2.
American tennis is bubbling under the surface in the men’s game with nine players from the US ranked in the top 50 while just two of those, Fritz and Tiafoe are currently in the top 20.
While Tiafoe had an impressive US Open run, Fritz was left crestfallen by a first-round defeat to Brandon Holt.
Fritz very nearly missed the Japan Open altogether after a positive COVID-19 test but a whirlwind turnaround saw him make it and now reach the final.
“It’s pretty amazing what I’ve been able to accomplish this week,” said Fritz, after beating Denis Shapovalov in Saturday’s semi-finals 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3.
“Just from thinking that I might not even be able to play this tournament to then seven days in a room, wake up at 5 a.m., take a flight here and just show up and play… It’s pretty crazy how quick things happen. It was only four days ago.”
Fritz is a powerful player but the speed of the courts in Tokyo have posed challenges for him which might be a big plus for Tiafoe.
“Honestly, physically I’ve felt fine all week,” Fritz said after reaching the final. “I think the biggest struggle for me this week has been the court speed.”
Tiafoe was also a little relieved to come through his semi-final after giving up a second set bagel to Soonwoo Kwon.
“It was a weird match, but I’m happy to get through,” said Tiafoe, who is into his second final of the season and his fifth overall. “It’s not always going to be pretty, it’s not always going to be the best stuff, but a win is what matters.
“A little bit of a loose game, I got broken [early] in that second set, but he started definitely picking up his level,” Tiafoe said.
“Then after that he was playing really well. I let the set go a little bit as well, but he was playing really well.”
The Tokyo Open final could prove a watershed moment for one or both of the hot American talents.
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