Tokyo, Oct 9 (Ajit Weekly News) America’s Taylor Fritz registered a 7-6(3), 7-6(2) victory against countryman Frances Tiafoe in the final to clinch the Japan Open Tennis Championships men’s singles title, here on Sunday.
Immediately following seven days in hotel quarantine in Seoul, Fritz completed a perfect five-day stretch in Tokyo to claim his third title of a career-defining year. With this, the third seed became the 10th different American singles champion at the ATP 500 event and the first since Pete Sampras in 1996.
“[It is] crazy, I don’t even think it’s set in just how fast the last four or five days have been,” said Fritz after the match.
“It’s so crazy, and I couldn’t have written it any better. It’s exactly what I needed for the Race [To Turin], for my ranking, to kind of put me in a good position for the end of the year, so it’s amazing,” he added.
Tiafoe carried a streak of 13 straight singles tie-break wins into the title match, but Fritz dominated both on Sunday with aggressive hitting. He did not drop a point on serve in either tie-break, both times converting on early leads.
The third seed had held the upper hand for much of the match, creating eight break chances compared to three for Tiafoe. A trade of breaks in the third and fourth games made for an eventful start, but the drama peaked in the final three games of the opening set.
Tiafoe’s 4-5 service game began a run of three games with a breakpoint. Facing a set point at 30/40, he outlasted Fritz in a lengthy rally before firing two big serves to hold. After a brilliant Tiafoe volley brought up his own break chance, Fritz used a drop shot to escape before battling through two deuces to edge back in front.
Fritz nearly converted on his second set point, with his opponent again down 30/40, but the fourth seed defended well, deep in his backhand corner, to turn the point around. In the tie-break, Fritz claimed an early mini-break by punishing a short Tiafoe slice, then sealed the set with a booming forehand winner.
In set two, Tiafoe saved two break points both 1-1 and 2-2, and then escaped 30/30 in his next two service games. Fritz, who did not face a break point in the set, scored an immediate mini-break in the second tie-break and soon had a 6/1 advantage, with Tiafoe growing frustrated by untimely errors.
Tiafoe unleashed one last big forehand to save one match point but sent a forehand long on the second as Fritz clinched the victory.
Both players entered the final at career highs in the ATP Rankings, and both will break new ground on Monday. Fritz will make his Top 10 debut by jumping three spots to No 8, becoming the first American to crack the Top 10 since Jack Sock in 2017. Tiafoe will rise two spots to a new high of No.17.
With the win, Fritz improved to 5-1 in the pair’s ATP Head to Head series and has now won each of their past five matchups, including three this season (Australian Open, Montreal, Tokyo).
The all-American singles final was the first in Tokyo since 1996 when Sampras defeated Richey Reneberg and the eighth overall at the event. The ’96 championship match completed a run of four consecutive all-US finals in Tokyo and five consecutive American champions (Sampras three times, Jim Courier twice).
It was also the fifth all-American tour-level final of 2022, the most since five in 2002. Fritz joins the entirety of the Big Four — Roger Federer (2006), Rafael Nadal (2010), Andy Murray (2011), and Novak Djokovic (2019) — among Tokyo’s honour roll of champions.
–Ajit Weekly News
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