Against the Ropes, Fritz Prevails Over Becker in Memphis

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Copyright © 2016. No duplication is permitted without permission from Bob Larson Tennis.

Taylor Fritz Tennis News

Photo by Alex Smith

Taylor Fritz becomes the first teenager since Michael Chang in 1989 to reach an ATP semifinal after defeating Benjamin Becker, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(5).

The young American relinquished an early 4-1 lead in the first set but recovered enough to break back and close the opener at 6-4. The second set started to replay the first, with Fritz breaking Becker early on and looking to steam roll his way throughout the remainder of the match.

Becker was soon able to rally with the teenager, with the longer rallies going his way. Fritz’s forehand and serve, which had suited him well throughout the tournament, quickly became a liability as the unforced errors started to pile up. Meanwhile, the German’s forehand only became more solid allowing him to fend off a straight set loss and take the match to a deciding third, 7-5.

A reoccurring trend for both players, the third set would go down to the wire. Late in the final set, a net cord forehand landing out and a backhand cross-court spraying wide off the racket of Fritz would be all Becker needed to break to go up 6-5 to serve for the match, but the former junior No. 1 was far from done.

Able to break back off the Becker serve, the two fighters were headed to a third set tiebreaker.

Both players seemed tight, making routine errors after long rallies until Fritz was the first one to strike outside his comfort zone with a daring forehand crosscourt winner at 4-4. The resilience of Fritz could not be denied as he took the final two points to finish the match 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (5).

“It’s incredible, I can’t believe it,” Fritz said about being in his first career ATP World Tour semifinal. “I felt my serve had become a liability in the second set, but in the third I just tried to get my legs under it more and that really helped. It’s been a while since I had crowd support like that, I owe a lot of it to them.”

Fritz’s opponent in the semifinals, Ricardas Berankis, is making his first appearance in the final four since 2011 in Los Angeles.

Berankis took on No.3 seed Donald Young, who fought off an early break from the Lithuanian to level the first set and take it to a tiebreaker.

In the breaker, Berankis was on cruise control, attacking the approach shots and only dropping three points en route to closing the opener, 7-6(3).

With a now clearly frustrated Young on the other side of the net, Berankis easily closed out the American to book his spot in the next round, 7-6(3), 6-1.

“My aggressive game and approach game really worked for me today,” Berankis said. “In the second set I had to make an adjustment, I was down 0-30 twice and just went for my first serves.”

Fritz and Berankis will meet on Stadium Court at 4pm Saturday afternoon.

Extending his 4-0 record over the Kazakhstan native to five, Three-time defending champ easily dispatches Mikhail Kukushkin, 6-2, 6-4, to advance to the semifinals.

It only took the 2014 US Open finalist 42 minutes to claim the opening set at 6-2. In the second, Kukushkin fought hard to keep up with his opponent, but failed to convert any of the four break point opportunities he set up. Nishikori only needed one break and it was enough to send him to his fourth semifinal.

Nishikori is now set to meet 2010 champion Sam Querrey Saturday in the semifinals. Making his third semifinal appearance, Querrey defeated qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3 6-4.

“We had a lot of close games, it was a tough match,” Querrey said. “I kept hitting through the court, and I didn’t lay off on many balls. I was happy with the way I played.

“I didn’t know much about Nishioka, except that he’s a crafty lefty. It was tough to hit the ball through him but I kept pressing.”

Querrey will try to avenge last year’s 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(5) semifinal loss to Nishikori. But the world No. 7 has a 4-3 edge over the American, having won the pair’s past three meetings.

Saturday will also host an all-American doubles semifinal between No.4 seeds Querrey and Steve Johnson against wildcards Taylor Fritz and Ryan Harrison. Fritz and Harrison had to go the distance to take out New Zealand’s Marcus Daniell and Artem Sitak, 6-2, 6-7(4), 12-10. Meanwhile, Querrey and Johnson dismissed Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands, 6-3, 6-4 in just under an hour.

Copyright © 2016. No duplication is permitted without permission from Bob Larson Tennis.