The Rise and Pause of Taylor Fritz, America’s Next Great Tennis Star
“Everything was going great for me,” Taylor Fritz says about his phenomenal start to the 2020 tennis season. The 22-year-old pro had made it into the third round of the Australian Open, and a few weeks later, in Acapulco, blew past a phalanx of heavy hitters to meet Rafael Nadal in the final of the Mexican Open. That showing gave Fritz the highest ranking of his career, up to No. 24 in the world, which meant that he was heading into his home tournament in Indian Wells, California, with serious velocity. Commentators and fans alike began to wonder if they were finally witnessing the rise of the next great American men’s star. The answer to that question would have to wait. Due to COVID-19, the spring and summer tennis season was effectively canceled, leaving Fritz on the precipice of what might well have been (and hopefully still will be) a breakthrough year.
Born in San Diego, where he was raised by two former tennis pros, Fritz displayed talent on the court as soon as he was given a racket. At 6 foot 4, lean and long-armed, his game consists of a potent blend of powerful groundstrokes, a super-strong serve, and the rhythm and reach to put up a tough defense. It’s no surprise that growing up his idols were Pete Sampras, Juan Martín del Potro, and Roger Federer. But what might seal the deal on Fritz’s future greatness is his unflappable, on-court temperament. In an age of the public tantrum, Fritz says, “One of my strongest assets is my ability to be calm under pressure. I think it’s one of the reasons why I am where I am.”
Fritz has been growing up fast and handling adult responsibilities for quite some time. In 2016, at age 18, he married his longtime girlfriend (and fellow tennis player) Raquel Pedraza (now divorced since December 2019), and they had a son the following year. As much as COVID-19 has interrupted his professional career, it’s brought with it unexpected quality time with his son in Los Angeles. “I took about a month off to just do nothing,” he says, “And I felt like I really needed that. I haven’t had time like that in five years. And when I say nothing, I mean that I wasn’t playing tennis or working out. Instead, I spent time being with my son, sleeping in, and playing video games.” During this hiatus, Fritz has racked up a number of wins—and more than a million dollars for charity—from the comfort of his own home in gaming tournaments. Video games aren’t just a hobby for the player; last year, he invested his own earnings in an eSports franchise. “I’ve always thought it’s going to be the future,” he says.
But for now, Fritz is back to serious training for the important, albeit abridged season ahead. At press time, the U.S. Open was still slated to start in late August, with the French Open to follow at the end of September (Wimbledon has been canceled outright for the first time since World War II). How that will affect rankings and performances is anyone’s guess. But Fritz is still hoping to crack the top 20 and make a longer run at a Grand Slam this year. Perhaps the strangest part of the upcoming tournaments will be playing matches in empty stadiums. “It’s going to be so much harder,” Fritz says. “A lot of what I enjoy about tennis is the cheering crowd.”