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Taylor Fritz's Path To Another Banner Season In 2017

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In August 2015, the spotlight had not yet discovered 17-year-old American Taylor Fritz.

He was No. 685 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and had lost in the first round of US Open qualifying to No. 123 Luca Vanni 6-3, 6-3. Fritz won only three points against the Italian’s first serve, four against his second serve, and was not able to generate a single break point.

And then everything changed. The American won 11 straight matches and strung together four impressive results in four months:

  • Oct. 2015: Won $100K Challenger, Sacramento, California

  • Oct. 2015: Won $50K Challenger, Fairfield, California

  • Nov. 2015: Finalist $50K Challenger, Champaign, Illinois

  • Jan. 2016: Won $75K Challenger, Onkaparinga, Australia

Fritz’s ranking jumped from No. 685 to No. 155 during that run, and the spotlight is now well and truly shining in his direction as he finished the season ranked No. 76, slightly down from a career high of No. 53 in August.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of the Californian’s meteoric rise highlights the strengths that got him this far this quickly, and also what improvements Fritz needs to make in 2017 to keep feeding the steep growth curve.

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First-Serve Prowess

For 2016, Fritz finished 52nd in the Serve Leaders category of the ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS, powered by the Infosys Information Platform, including 30th in first-serve points won, 73.2%, and 17th in average aces per match, 8.4. His first serve is a bomb.

View The ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS

When he lost to then-World No. 5 Stan Wawrinka in four sets in the opening round of Wimbledon this year, the American's fastest serve was 135 mph. Wawrinka topped out at 129 mph.

Focus On Returning

This is where Fritz will find his growth in 2017, as most maturing players do. In the 2016 season, Fritz fared 66th best in the Return Leaders category of the ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS. He didn't break the Top 50 in any of the four return statistics that comprise the Return Leaders category.

The below chart shows six point scores and the percentage chance of breaking at each scoreline for Fritz and fellow #NextGen players Kyle Edmund, World No. 45, and Alexander Zverev, No. 24 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

2016 Season: Percentage Chance Of Breaking Serve By Point Score

 Point Score (When Returning)   Taylor Fritz  Kyle Edmund  Alexander Zverev  15/0  12%  15%  15%  0/15   32%  31%  41%  15/15   24%  24%  28%  30/30   26%  32%  33%  30/40   47%  50%  63%  40/30   11%  13%  12%

Break Points Saved

Fritz was 21st on the ATP World Tour in 2016 in break points saved at 64 per cent. Behind his first serve, that percentage elevated to an extremely high 77 per cent (125/163), which is even higher than World No. 1 Andy Murray and World No. 2 Novak Djokovic, who were both at 74 per cent.

But behind second serves, both Murray (56 per cent) and Djokovic (57 per cent) were well above Fritz’s 47 per cent, identifying another snapshot of current vulnerability.

Fritz turned 19 just over a month ago (Oct. 28), and is still very much putting the pieces of the puzzle together in his developmental pathway. Look out world when this rough draft starts looking like a masterpiece.

Mum's The Word! Fritz Special Feature

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Taylor Fritz and his mother, Kathy May - a former Top 10 player, discuss the American NextGen star's rise on the ATP World Tour and reveal the support she has been to him throughout his tennis development.

Best Grand Slam Matches: Part 1

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5. Kei Nishikori d. Andy Murray 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5/QF/US Open

To some, Andy Murray was the favourite, the pick to win his second US Open and claim back-to-back Grand Slam championships during the second half of 2016.

The Scot, who had won his second Wimbledon title in July, was certainly playing like a top contender in New York. Before his quarter-final against Kei Nishikori, Murray had gone 26-1 since his first match at The Queen's Club in London, where he'd won a record fifth title.

Some doubted his main competition as well. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic had endured an up-and-down July and August. The Serbian had lost in the third round at Wimbledon and in the first round at the Olympics, but he had won the Rogers Cup, his record 30th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title.

Nishikori, however, likely didn't care who was the top player. The 26 year old, who reached the 2014 US Open final, knew he could beat anyone at anytime in New York, and that was all that mattered when he and Murray stepped onto Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Read Match Report: Nishikori Upsets Murray In New York

Murray, the second seed, played like the favourite in the first set, winning more than half of his return points. But Nishikori changed his tactics in the second set, mixing in drop shots and more slice against the World No. 2.

Murray grabbed a back-and-forth third set – five service breaks – and was one set away from the semi-finals. He held to start the fourth and had a break point at 1-0, but a loud noise in the stadium caused a let and changed Murray's entire mindset.

The Brit was flustered about the disturbance, and Nishikori took advantage, reeling off six consecutive games to even the match. In the fifth set, Nishikori stayed calm, breaking Murray to lead 6-5 and holding to reach the semi-finals at the US Open for the second time.

“There were many up and downs, but I tried to [stay] calm. I think that's the most important thing I did today. Even though there were many up and downs I tried to stay tough,” Nishikori said.

It was just the latest time that “Clutch Kei” had brought his best tennis in a decider. To date, Nishikori is the most successful player in matches that go to a deciding set, according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone. Nishikori owns a 99-29 record in such matches, giving him a winning percentage of 77 per cent, higher than anyone in the Open Era.


4. Novak Djokovic d. Andy Murray 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4/F/Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic had meandered through his most complicated Roland Garros path, winning five matches in six days because of a gloomy stretch in Paris. But what awaited the Serbian next in his fourth Roland Garros final was an opportunity that had eluded him all of his career: the Roland Garros title.

The pressure had never been greater. Djokovic was trying to become the third man in history to hold all four major titles at the same time (Don Budge, 1938; Rod Laver, 1962, 1969). The Belgrade native was also attempting to become the eighth man in history to complete the overall career Grand Slam.

Three times before he had come within a match of winning Roland Garros. In 2012 and 2014, Djokovic was in Rafael Nadal's path to Roland Garros glory, and in 2015, Stan Wawrinka, wearing his plaid shorts, improved to 2-0 against World No. 1s in Grand Slam title matches.

But in this year's final, Andy Murray stood in Djokovic's way and placed doubt in Djokovic's mind for the first nine games. Murray, playing in his first Roland Garros final, bullied a nervy Djokovic to the back of the court for a one-set lead.

The two were playing for the seventh time in a Grand Slam final and for the 34th time overall in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. Murray had been 2-4 against Djokovic in Grand Slam finals, but the Scot started about as well as he could have hoped.

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Djokovic took over in the second set, though, returning aggressively and forgetting about the nerves that had hobbled him earlier in the match. He sought to wear Murray down with a steady stream of drop shots and was striking his backhand as cleanly as he had all tournament.

Djokovic rode early breaks in the third and fourth sets. Serving at 5-2 in the fourth set, he was broken but he held two games later to solidify his place in tennis history.

“I started well in the first game and then I dropped four straight games. Nerves kicked in. I needed a little bit of time to really find the right rhythm and start to play the way I intended, which happened in the beginning of the second and practically until 5-2 in the fourth set,” Djokovic said. “It was flawless tennis. I really felt like I played on a high quality and put a lot of pressure on Andy's serves.”

On his third and final match point, Djokovic said he experienced an out-of-body moment as he tried to clinch the career Grand Slam.

“In the last point I don't even remember what happened... It's like my spirit has left my body and I was just observing my body fight the last three, four exchanges, going left to right and hoping that Andy will make a mistake,” Djokovic said. “[It was] a thrilling moment. One of the most beautiful I have had in my career.”


3. Fernando Verdasco d. Rafael Nadal 7-6(6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-2/1R/Australian Open

The stage in the tournament had changed but the drama and level of play was all the same when Fernando Verdasco and Rafael Nadal met during the first round of the Australian Open this year.

Seven years earlier, in 2009, the Spaniards had faced off in the semi-finals in Melbourne. Verdasco was playing in his first and, to date, only Grand Slam semi-final. Nadal was trying to reach his maiden Australian Open final, and he'd fend off his countryman after five hours and 14 minutes, then the longest match in tournament history.

Who would have guessed the two would come close to matching that feat on the same court, Rod Laver Arena, seven years later? Surely not Nadal, especially when he led Verdasco two sets to one and had won the third set in 43 minutes, the fastest set of the match so far. Verdasco's level had cooled – his winner tally had dropped from 20 in the first set to six in the third set – and it looked like Nadal would cruise to yet another win against his compatriot.

Read Match Report: Verdasco Stuns Nadal In Five Setter

The Mallorca native owned a 14-2 record in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Verdasco. But Verdasco was leading in the “what have you done for me lately?” category, having taken two of their past three meetings, including a three-set win in Miami the year earlier.

In the fourth set, Verdasco earned a break and served to even the match at 5-4. But Nadal fought back to force a tie-break, which Verdasco won with an ace down the T. He'd hit 20 on the day.

The story of the match became the fifth set, and the story of the set was Verdasco's bullet-like forehands. Nadal gained an early break but Verdasco charged back, winning six consecutive games to end the four-hour, 41-minute match.

“I was just closing my eyes and everything went in!” Verdasco said. “In the fourth set I started serving better than the second and third. He started playing less deep and strong. I started coming inside the court, being aggressive and it went well.

On match point, Nadal served to Verdasco's forehand, and he replied with a practice-esque cut at the ball for his 90th winner of the match.

“He had a lot of success hitting every ball at full power in the fifth,” Nadal said. “I have to congratulate him.”

Maybe most telling was Verdasco's reaction once the ball whizzed past Nadal. He didn't scream to the sky or jump in celebration. He simply glanced at his box and silently pumped his fist. He had known what it was like to be on the losing end of a back-and-forth battle with Nadal, but thanks to one of his best efforts of the year, Verdasco also knew what it was like to be on the winning end.

Coming Thursday: The Best Grand Slam Matches Of 2016, Part 2

Red cards set to be introduced to cricket for unruly player conduct

ABC Sport - 26 min 39 sec ago

The MCC's world cricket committee says on-field player behaviour is getting worse and recommends the introduction of red cards from next year.

Robert Enjoys Career Year

ATP news - 39 min 3 sec ago
ATP World Tour Uncovered presented by Peugeot profiles enigmatic Frenchman, Stephane Robert, who broke into the Top 50 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time at the age of 36.

Cheika backed by ARU despite Wallabies' horror season

ABC Sport - Wed, 07/12/2016 - 5:28pm

The Australian Rugby Union backs Michael Cheika through to the 2019 World Cup, saying the Wallabies coach is not under pressure following the team's worst losing year on record.

Tomic says he and Kyrgios unfairly targeted by media

ABC Tennis news - Wed, 07/12/2016 - 4:22pm

Bernard Tomic says he and Nick Kyrgios are misunderstood and have been unfairly targeted by the media.

Tomic says he and Kyrgios unfairly targeted by media

ABC Sport - Wed, 07/12/2016 - 4:22pm

Bernard Tomic says he and Nick Kyrgios are misunderstood and have been unfairly targeted by the media.

AFL players strike 'a chance': Dangerfield

ABC Sport - Wed, 07/12/2016 - 3:12pm

Geelong's Brownlow medallist Patrick Dangerfield says a player strike during the AFL preseason competition next year is a possibility if the league cannot reach a collective bargaining agreement by February.

Barba tipped for Sharks' NRL return amid code switch reports

ABC Sport - Wed, 07/12/2016 - 3:08pm

Cronulla centre Jack Bird expects his sacked premiership team-mate Ben Barba to return to the NRL with the Sharks in 2017 despite reports he is considering a move to rugby union.

Dimitrov Attends The Fashion Awards With Anna Wintour

ATP news - Wed, 07/12/2016 - 2:08pm

After years of Anna Wintour watching Grigor Dimitrov play tennis, the Bulgarian entered his friend's element on Monday evening. Wintour and Dimitrov, along with his girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger, attended The Fashion Awards at Royal Albert Hall in London.

Fashion has always been a passion of Dimitrov's, and he's long had incredible respect for Wintour, who has been the editor-in-chief at Vogue since 1988. Wintour helped put Dimitrov in the October 2014 issue of the fashion magazine. She's also supported him at the US Open every year since.

Dimitrov returned to off-season training on Tuesday. He's in Monaco and then will spend two weeks in Miami with a number of other ATP World Tour players before heading to Brisbane at the end of the year. Dimitrov finished this season No. 17 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

Djokovic Splits With Becker

ATP news - Wed, 07/12/2016 - 12:43pm

Novak Djokovic will try to re-claim No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings next season without the assistance of coach Boris Becker. The two will no longer work together, Djokovic announced on Tuesday.

“After three very successful years, Boris Becker and I have jointly decided to end our cooperation. The goals we set when we started working together have been completely fulfilled, and I want to thank him for the cooperation, teamwork, dedication and commitment,” Djokovic wrote. “On the other hand, my professional plans are now directed primarily to maintain a good level of play, and also to make a good schedule and new goals for the next season. In this regard I will make all future decisions.”

Becker, a former World No. 1 and 49-time titlist, joined Djokovic's team three years ago and, with coach Marian Vajda, helped the Serbian to one of the best stretches in tennis history. During the past three years, Djokovic won 25 titles, including 14 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles, two Barclays ATP World Tour Finals titles and six Grand Slam crowns.

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Djokovic completed his career-long goal of winning Roland Garros this season, his 12th Grand Slam title. In doing so, he became the third man in history to hold all four major titles at the same time (Don Budge, 1938; Rod Laver, 1962, 1969) and the eighth man to complete the career Grand Slam. Djokovic also claimed his record 30th Masters 1000 title in July with victory over Kei Nishikori at the Rogers Cup.

Thank U ! We had the time of our life ...#teamdjokovic pic.twitter.com/n6uZRd4m1O

Boris Becker (@TheBorisBecker) December 6, 2016

Players call for NRL v clubs stoush to be resolved 'sooner rather than later'

ABC Sport - Wed, 07/12/2016 - 12:07pm

Warriors veteran Ryan Hoffman says he hopes the ongoing dispute between the clubs and the game's administration gets sorted out quickly so players can secure their futures.

Troicki Ties The Knot In Belgrade

ATP news - Wed, 07/12/2016 - 10:38am

Viktor Troicki wed his girlfriend Aleksandra Djordjevic last week in Belgrade, with Novak Djokovic and wife Jelena, Janko Tipsarevic and Nenad Zimonjic among those in attendance.

Troicki and Djordjevic, wearing a dress made by Tipsarevic’s wife Biljana, exchanged their vows on 27 November in an Orthodox wedding at the St. Aleksandar Nevski Church and continued the celebration with a reception at the Crowne Plaza Belgrade. Serbians Dusan Lajovic, Filip Krajinovic, Dusan Vemic and national team coach Bogdan Obradovic also took part in the festivities.

The 30-year-old Troicki enjoyed another strong season in 2016, finishing inside the Top 30 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. He will begin his 2017 campaign in Australia, and is the two-time defending champion at the Apia International Sydney

Novak Djokovic splits with coach Becker

ABC Tennis news - Wed, 07/12/2016 - 9:25am

After an uncharacteristically poor end to the year, Novak Djokovic and Boris Becker have decided to go their separate ways.

Novak Djokovic splits with coach Becker

ABC Sport - Wed, 07/12/2016 - 9:25am

After an uncharacteristically poor end to the year, Novak Djokovic and Boris Becker have decided to go their separate ways.

Pat Cummins 'pumped to be back in the green and gold'

ABC Sport - Wed, 07/12/2016 - 8:04am

Five years after his sole Test, Pat Cummins is impressing in his international return via ODIs. And he is still only 23 years old.

Women's Big Bash out of its infancy and coming into its own in season two

ABC Sport - Wed, 07/12/2016 - 6:44am

Year two of the Women’s Big Bash League comes with an extended season, evening games and prime-time TV slots, writes Adam Collins.

Best ATP Matches: Part 2

ATP news - Wed, 07/12/2016 - 5:14am
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2. Andy Murray d. Kei Nishikori 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4/RR/Barclays ATP World Tour Finals

Novak Djokovic was the final obstacle Andy Murray faced during his historic run to year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. But looking back on it, Kei Nishikori might have been Murray's trickiest opponent during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.

Coming into their round-robin match, Murray had been on a roll. He'd won 20 consecutive matches, including back-to-back-to-back-to-back titles in Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris. But before Murray stopped losing this season, Nishikori had been one of the few players who had figured out how to beat him during the second half of the season. And he upset Murray on one of tennis' biggest stages: US Open quarter-finals, Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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The theatrics set, the players delivered at The O2. They fought for 85 minutes in the opening set, exchanging hot shot after hot shot, especially during the 20-point tie-break. Murray saved four set points, Nishikori, three. But the Japanese would finally win the opener to make it three consecutive sets against Murray.

The Scot would answer, though. He took the second set in 53 minutes, breaking Nishikori at 4-4 before serving out the set. But when it came time to serve for the match, Murray faltered at 5-2. He'd make it up it at 5-4, though, and remain unbeaten in round-robin play. Nishikori had the level to beat the World No. 1 but couldn't sustain it.

“It never feels good after losing the match,” said Nishikori. “I know it was close. I mean, I’m definitely disappointed… I think it was great match, both of us.”

1. Andy Murray d. Milos Raonic 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(9)/SF/Barclays ATP World Tour Finals

More hardly could have been on the line when Andy Murray and Milos Raonic met during the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.

Murray, the newly-annointed World No. 1, was trying to extend his 22-match win streak, reach his first final at The O2 and complete only one of the hardest tasks in tennis: Finish No. 1 in the year-end Emirates ATP Rankings.

Only sixteen men since 1973 had ended the calendar year on top before this season, and the Scot was just two wins away from joining that elite club when he faced Raonic. The pressure was on, too, as World No. 2 Novak Djokovic had also reached the last four in London. Beat Raonic, and Murray still controlled his fate, but lose, and the top spot was Djokovic's to take.

Raonic had already faced the Serbian in London, falling in a tight 7-6(6), 7-6(5) round-robin match. Against Murray, the Canadian was hoping to win those few crucial points and assure himself a career-best year-end No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

He had already come oh so close to beating Murray in 2016. Raonic was up two sets to one in the semi-finals of the Australian Open. At The Queen's Club final, he led by a set and a break. But both times, Murray turned back Raonic's power tennis.

At The O2, Raonic was again the early starter, taking the opener 7-5. He broke early in the second set to get within four consecutive holds of his first London final. But Murray came back and the two were tied at 4-all in the third set.

What ensued next was the most unpredictable stretch of the tournament: Four consecutive service breaks. First Raonic couldn't hold to get to 5-4, then Murray couldn't hold to win the match. Then it was the Canadian's turn again, dropping his serve at 5-all. Then Murray, incredibly, was broken at 6-5, his second attempt to serve out the match. So they headed to tennis' most dramatic moment, a tie-break in the final set.

Raonic saved three match points and had his own match point at 9/8 but Murray cut a backhand volley to even the tie-break at 9/9. Two points later, he'd point to his heart in celebration.

On Wednesday in London, Murray and Kei Nishikori had set the record for the longest three-set match in season finale history, three hours, 20 minutes. But four days later, Murray and Raonic had broken the record with their three-hour and 38-minute semi-final.

Murray's 24-match win streak. His first Barclays ATP World Tour Finals title. His first year-end finish at No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. In the semi-finals against Raonic, they were all a swing away from not happening in 2016.

Coming Wednesday: The best Grand Slam matches of 2016.

Watch Part 2 NextGen Behind The Scenes Documentary

ATP news - Wed, 07/12/2016 - 3:27am
Watch part two of the special NextGen Uncovered documentary, which sees Karen Khachanov win his first ATP World Tour title in Chengdu, while in Beijing both Kyle Edmund and Sascha Zverev make strong runs.