MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Teenager Taylor Fritz beat Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday to reach the Memphis Open final, extending his amazing run by becoming the youngest American to reach a final since Michael Chang in 1989.
The 18-year-old Fritz, from Rancho Sante Fe, California, already had made a mark as the youngest American to reach an ATP semifinal since Chang won Wembley in 1989 at age 17.
Now Fritz will play three-time defending champ Kei Nishikori, a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 winner over 2010 Memphis champ Sam Querrey, on Sunday.
“It’s crazy what four tennis matches can achieve,” Fritz said.
Nishikori won his 16th straight match in Memphis, and now the seventh-ranked player in the world will look for his fourth straight title here in his 16th career ATP final.
This is just the third ATP Tour event for Fritz. He got to an ATP semifinal faster than Grand Slam winners like Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Chang who each reached their first semifinal in their fourth career ATP tournaments. Unlike Sampras, Courier or Chang, Fritz will play on and try to become the youngest American to win a title since Chang.
“That’s something that doesn’t happen very often,” Fritz said. “I’m really excited that I just got to this level and I’m proving myself on it quickly and … just proving to myself that I belong here.”
The 6-foot-4 Fritz, who turned 18 on Oct. 28, used his big serve to rally after dropping the first set to Berankis, a 25-year-old in his second career semifinal. Fritz said he felt he played the first set as well as he could with Berankis looking almost unbeatable. So Fritz, who came in leading this tournament with 30 aces, cranked up his serve by up to 10 mph in the second.
Coming through with more speed helped Fritz also convert better off his first serve, and he took the second set in 26 minutes. In the third set, fans started chanting Fritz’s name, and the teenager was able to celebrate when Berankis hit a backhand into the net on match point.
The son of a tennis coach whose mother, Kathy, reached the top 10 in the WTA, Fritz said he plans to change nothing before Sunday’s final. That means not asking his parents to hop on the next plane to Memphis, especially now that he feels like he’s finally figured out his serve on this indoor court at The Racquet Club.
Nishikori won his fourth straight against Querrey, even though the No. 4 seed took the first set after breaking the defending champ to go up 3-1 in Querrey’s first semifinal this year. Nishikori broke Querrey in the second game of the second set when the American double-faulted on break point. Querrey had a chance to break Nishikori in the eighth game of the third set but couldn’t convert.
Now Nishikori can try to tie Jimmy Connors’ tournament mark of four titles won in 1978-79 and 1983-84.
“It will be (a) really big moment for me, to win four years in a row,” Nishikori said. “But I try not to think about tomorrow. I (will) try to play good tennis again tomorrow. Taylor is another tough opponent. We never play before, and he’s upcoming.”
Querrey was unhappy with the heavier balls used at this event speaking quickly before a quick turnaround for a doubles semifinal.
“It’s tough to hit it through him when the balls are so heavy,” Querrey said. “I had a look there at the end, but I was just too conservative on the break point.”
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.