John McEnroe applauds feisty Taylor Fritz – ‘I love that. I like to see a little confrontation’
Taylor Fritz didn’t make too many friends at Roland Garros after he hushed the crowd following his second-round win, but John McEnroe doffed his hat to the world No 8 following the incident.
Local hopes were pinned on Arthur Rinderknech on Thursday evening as he was the last French player standing in the main draw in Paris. And the Parisian crowd had a lot of reason to celebrate about early on as their man won the opening set, but Fritz hit back and eventually ended up with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 victory.
Cue boos from those on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Fritz was happy to play the villain as he put his fingers on his lips and hushed the crowd before urging them to send more boos his way, shouting: “Come on! I want to hear it!”
Those in the stands obliged and even the post-match on-court interview was disrupted by boos, but Fritz took it all in his stride.
One person who certainly enjoyed the American’s antics with McEnroe – a man who was known for riling up spectators during his heyday.
“I can relate to fans being against me, so respect for Taylor. I love that,” the seven-time Grand Slam winner told Eurosport. “[A hostile crowd] can be extremely intimidating, but it also can be very inspiring. You can use that negative fuel to your advantage.
“I’ve got to hand it to Fritz, he’s done an incredible job getting himself in tip-top shape, he’s one of the best ball strikers that you’ll see on a tennis court, and he battles.
“He’s got some personality. I’ve been saying this for 50 years, but you play one-on-one against someone, you need that intensity.
“I think Taylor rose to the occasion. He’s a better player than Rinderknech in my opinion, I don’t think it’s a huge upset that he won that match.
“But I like to see a little confrontation, a la [Daniil] Medvedev a couple of years ago at the (US) Open.”
The win over Rinderknech helped Fritz to book his place in the third round of the clay major for only the second time in his career, but it remains to be seen if he will be public enemy number one when he takes on Francisco Cerundolo on Saturday.
McEnroe, though, is impressed with the ninth seed handled the hostile crowd.
“If you know Fritz, you know he’s got a bit of that. He’s very confident, as he should be, and you need to be to be a top player. On the court you don’t see it as often, but off the court you feel that,” he said.
“I’ve been with him a couple of years as Laver Cup captain and he’s like ‘I’ve got this, I know exactly what to do.’ He believes in himself, and you have to believe in yourself.
“This is what it’s all about – Americans coming to Paris or vice versa, you know the crowd is going to be against you and you’re pumped up for it.
“That’s exactly what Fritz did – I thought he handled it incredibly.”
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