Taylor Fritz Almost Beat Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. The Loss Still Hurts.
Taylor Fritz leaned across the long table, his cheeks cupped in his hands, his face flushed with exhaustion and emotion.
It was not long after Fritz had lost a four-hour, 21-minute Wimbledon quarterfinal to Rafael Nadal in July — a match that featured a fifth-set super tiebreaker in addition to a medical timeout to tend to Nadal’s torn abdominal muscle — and the magnitude of Fritz’s heartbreak engulfed the room.
“I really, really wanted this match,” Fritz said at the time. “I was sitting there and felt like crying. I’ve never felt like that after a loss.”
Six weeks later, the loss still stung.
“Those kinds of matches hurt the most to lose,” Fritz said by phone just before the start of the United States Open. “It was my first major quarterfinal, so I had to take a step back and look at the positives. I was so close, so maybe next time I’ll get it.”
Fritz has been highly thought of since he won the Junior U.S. Open in 2015. His mother, Kathy May, was ranked No. 10 in the world in 1977 and his father, Guy, is a coach.
This year has been up and down for Fritz. The Californian, 24, is the top-ranked American male and No. 12 in the world. In March, he won his first ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Indian Wells, beating Nadal in the final.
But just when he thought he was on track to win a major, Fritz was upset in the first round of the U.S. Open by the qualifier Brandon Holt, ranked No. 303 at the time. Fritz has also been nursing an ankle injury but is confident it won’t be an issue when he plays for Team World at the Laver Cup, which beings on Friday in London.
The following conversation has been edited and condensed.
The last time you played Laver Cup, in 2019, you lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas and beat Dominic Thiem. What brought you back now?
I would have played every single year if I was invited to be on the team. It’s an honor to represent Team World and it’s such a fun, amazing event. Just the energy, it’s tough to find at anything like the team competition.
What will it be like playing against Team Europe? It’s a pretty stacked team, with Roger Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Casper Ruud and Tsitsipas.
I look forward to it. I think that on any given day I can beat anybody, and that’s what the team is going to be asking of me, so I’m ready.
You’ve talked a lot about innate confidence. Where does that come from?
It’s just something I’ve always had. I’ve always felt that how can you ever succeed and be the best if you don’t believe that?
Do you have a sports idol outside of tennis?
Yeah, a big role model of mine is [the soccer star Cristiano] Ronaldo. His work ethic really made me a fan.
Who would your ideal mixed doubles partner be?
I suppose I’d have to say my mom.
What’s the most important thing she taught you?
Probably just to have fun with it and not take everything so seriously. My dad was much more into all the coaching and tennis stuff. My mom was more relaxed about it all.
In terms of coaching, the smarter players are the ones who want to figure it out for themselves. Do you put yourself in that category?
Absolutely, when it comes to being analytical and strategic on the court and figuring out what the opponent is doing, I feel like my tennis I.Q. is really high. I think it’s one of my best assets.
You were 18 when you got married and had a son very young. Does Jordan understand who you are and what you do?
Yeah, he’s 5 and he knows what I do. He’s pretty disappointed when I tell him that I’m actually not the best tennis player in the world. He kind of expects that, so it’s tough to impress him.