When American Taylor Harry Fritz showed up at last year’s U.S. Open it was not only his first go at a Grand Slam junior event, but just his second ITF tournament ever played.
At Flushing Meadows, he was just overjoyed to come through the qualifying to play to face - and lose to - top seed Alexander Zverev of Germany in the first round.
In less than one year, however, the lanky 16-year-old Californian has developed into a hot junior prospect with a current combined ranking of No. 35. and now he’s into the Wimbledon junior boys’ third round compliments of a 64 76 (3) win over 14th seed Marcelo Zormann of Brazil on Wednesday.
“I went from my first ITF tournament (Claremont, in March 2013) thinking that getting to the semifinals at a Grade 4 was the best thing ever,” Fritz said. “I can’t believe how much I’ve improved, it’s like crazy. The stuff I’m used to now, back then I thought would be the craziest thing ever, is now normal, like winning two rounds at Wimbledon, playing Grand Slams, and winning rounds at ITF tournaments.”
As a product of California hard courts, it comes as no surprise that Fritz’s game is predicated on his potent serve.
“I feel that what I’m most dependent on here is my serve and that’s what I have to do to win the matches,” Fritz said. “I know in this tournament if I get a loss on grass it’s going to be because I don’t serve well or I lose 76 76.”
Tennis was in Fritz’s blood from birth. His father, Guy, played professionally although never surpassed a career high ranking of No. 301 in 1978. But his mother, Kathy May, was a solid top 10 player in her day.
“My dad does more of the coaching,”Fritz said. “The best way to put it is [mom] knows what it takes to get there so she can always help me on what I need to do. And they both started me out to be a person who hits hard and serves well because that’s the professional game right now.”
The one hour, 22-minute match against Zormann presented a challenge for Fritz, who watched his 4-1 lead in the first set dissolve, fortunately, at t 4-4, Fritz was able to win the final two games for a one-set lead.
In the second set, the two players exhcanged service breaks in the first two games. The 18-year-old Zormann offered Fritz two match points at 15-40 and 30-40 in the 12th game, but won the next three points to hold serve on an ace.
At 5-1 ahead in the second set tiebreaker, Fritz pushed himself to close out the match. He knew from previous experience playing Zormann that if he allowed the Brazilian to get back into the match it would be a disaster.
This was the second recent meeting between the two players —they played at a Futures event in Spain this spring. Although Fritz was ahead by a set and a break, Zormann won the first round match 36 63 60.
“I think he’s best on red clay,”Fritz said of Zormann. “When I played him I played him five days after my first time every playing on red clay and I was still was winning. That was a match that I think was one of my biggest chokes ever. I learned from that match I can’t let the guy back in.”
While Fritz was thrilled to be playing at his first Wimbledon, second seed Hyeon Chung of Korea is here hoping to improve by one round on his performance from 2013.
The 18-year-old Chung was the Wimbledon junior boys’finalist last year, losing 75 76(2) to Gianluca Quinzi of Italy.
On Wednesday, Chung moved one round closer to the final with a swift 61 61 second-round win over Simon Friis Soendergaard of Denmark. And as he goes along Chung said he’s trying to forget that he’s the second seed as a way of minimilizing any pressure he feels to do well at Wimbledon this year.
Like Fritz, Chung comes from a tennis family, his father Sukjin Chung is a tennis coach at the high school Chung attends. His older brother, Hong, is playing college tennis at Konkuk University in Korea.
Since he was a child, Chung has suffered with poor eyesight. His vision has gotten better, but he’s recognizable for wearing his red framed glasses.
“My vision is not that great,”said Chung, through an interpreter. “Playing sports was better for me than doing a lot of studying. My vision is getting better, but when I was a little kid I couldn’t find glasses that the prescriptions was good enough.”
It took Chung only 64-minutes to send Soendergaard packing. The latter held serve in the sixth game of the first set and the third game of the second set, which was the only statement he made in the match.
“It was an easy match,” Chung said. “The opponent made many mistakes and I seized every chance I had.”
In other boys’ matches around the grounds on Wednesday: sixth seed Stefan Kozlov defeated Pedre Martinez Portero of Spain 60 62; seventh seed Francis Tiafoe of USA defeated Yunseong Chung of Korea 76(4) 63; eighth seed Johan Sebastien Tatlor of France defeated Alex Molcan of Slovakia 64 62; ninth seed Naoki Nakagawa of Japan defeated Lucas Miedler of Austria 62 75; and 11th seed Michael Mmoh of USA defeated Jan Zielinski of Poland 63 62.
In girls’second round matches around the grounds on Wednesday: third seed Tornado Alicia Black defeated Rebecca Sramkova of Slovakia 62 64; seventh seed Francoise Abanda of Canada defeated Seone Mendez of Australia 60 64; eighth seed Kristina Schmiedlova of Slovakia defeated Kimberly Birrell of Australia 61 75; and 11th seed Ioana Loredana Rosca of Romania defeated Justina Mikulskyte of Lithuania 76(5) 16 75.