US Open – Fritz Leads Section Effort

Four times each year, two weeks of non-stop action captivate the tennis world during the Grand Slam tournaments. The majors unfold in a fashion unto themselves beginning with Australia followed by Roland Garros and Wimbledon in quick succession. Then there is the hard court season build up that leads to the ultimate extravaganza of the year – The US Open.

Taylor Fritz  Photo Susan Mullane _ camerawork usa

Taylor Fritz
Photo Susan Mullane _ camerawork usa

The 2015 New York adventure, played at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, showcased the game at its Big Apple best. That is surely the way Taylor Fritz will look back on the tournament. Having been a Simple Garcons finalist at Roland Garros to Tommy Paul, and a semifinalist to Boys’ tournament winner Reilly Opelka at Wimbledon, he wanted to make his final junior Grand Slam appearance a scrapbook feature.

That’s exactly what he did. Facing Paul, who edged him in the three set victory in Paris, in the US Open Boys’ final, he solidified his No. 1 International Tennis Federation (ITF) singles ranking and realized a long-term goal. Fritz put his name on a Grand Slam singles trophy, winning 6-2, 6-7, 6-2. Overall, it was a formidable Fritz performance as he won 99 points to his opponent’s 83. He clipped 11 aces (with merely two double faults) and matched winners/unforced errors at 30 apiece. With the victory, Fritz became the first Southern Californian to win the ultimate US junior tennis title since Tim Trigueiro did it in 1985.

Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey  Photo

Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey

Brandon Holt (who is one of Tracy Austin’s sons) and Riley Smith (whose father, Peter, coaches the USC men’s team) also had a tournament to remember. Given a wild card by the USTA, they were unseeded, but that didn’t matter. Holt and Smith played their way to the US Open Junior Boys’ Doubles final where Felix Auger Aliassima and Denis Shapovalov of Canada, who were also unseeded, edged them, 7-5, 7-6.

In the past, Sam Querrey played doubles with John Isner, and though focused on singles, they became a solid big-serving pair. Recently, Steve Johnson, who also has a big serve, has been Querrey’s partner. During the second week of the US Open, both players were named to the US Davis Cup team for the late September World Group Playoff against Uzbekistan in Tashkent. (Johnson and Querrey won the doubles in the US’s 3-1 victory, and Fritz served as a practice partner for the squad.)

Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Coco Vandeweghe  Photo Fred Mullane _ camerawork usa

Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Coco Vandeweghe
Photo Fred Mullane _ camerawork usa

Davis Cup captain, Jim Courier’s choice may have been influenced by Johnson and Querrey’s, 7-6, 5-7, 6-3 first round victory over the No. 1 seeds, Bob and Mike Bryan. (The defeat meant that the Bryans, for the first time since 2004, didn’t win a doubles Grand Slam title in 2015.) Jamie Murray of Great Britain and John Peers of Australia squeaked out a 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 semifinal decision over Johnson and Querrey (Murray and Peers lost the final to the French team, Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.)

Querrey was even better in the Mixed Doubles when he teamed with Bethanie Mattek-Sands. They were 6-4, 3-6, 10-7 finalists to the incomparable duo – Martina Hingis of Switzerland and Leander Paes of India.

Coco Vandeweghe received kudos for making Maria Sharapova battle for a 6-3, 6-7, 6-2, in a quarterfinal victory at Wimbledon. Ignored has been the solid doubles partnership that she formed with Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany and their performances this past summer. At the All England Lawn Tennis Club, they lost a third round match, 9-7 in the third set. In New York, they found even better form, reaching the semifinals where Casey Dellacqua of Australia and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan were 6-7, 7-5, 7-5 better. (Hingis won her second championship at this year tournament teaming with Sania Mirza of India to defeat Dellacqua and Shvedova, 6-3, 6-3.)

A seminal moment at this year’s drama was Mardy Fish bidding farewell to professional tennis. His “last show” was a draining five set, second round loss, to Feliciano Lopez of Spain. It was a fitting conclusion to a career that has recently involved confronting health issues. In the end, Fish was able to say goodbye his way.

Next year, Arthur Ashe Stadium, the largest center court tennis stadium, will become even more imposing. The closeable roof will be ready and the rain delay that made the countdown to the men’s final even more dramatic won’t be an issue.

While the all-Italian women’s final, in which Flavia Pennetta defeated Roberta Vinci, was unexpected, Novak Djokovic’s victory over Roger Federer benchmarked his reaching all four Grand Slam finals and winning three of the majors this year. Performances by Taylor Fritz, Brandon Holt and Riley Smith, along with Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey, clearly defined the US Open from a sectional point of view.

Mark Winters


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