A husband/father/tennis phenom -- all at the age of 19 -- Taylor Fritz sure has a lot on his plate. But if the weight of life's responsibilities is at all unwieldy, he's sure not showing it at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where he's enjoying what surely has to be considered the most successful week of his young professional career.
The wildcard entrant, who grew up only a few hours away in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., opened his BNP Paribas Open campaign with an impressive 6-3, 6-2 over Frenchman Benoit Paire, then scored his first-ever Top-10 win, stunning seventh-ranked Marin Cilic in three sets 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.
"Words can't describe it," said Fritz, not yet two years removed from his US Open junior title and now ranked No. 136. "My whole family was there. Raquel [his wife] was going crazy. It was amazing -- just the whole experience with the crowd, how I came back in the match. It's pretty amazing."
Amidst chants of "TAYLOR! TAYLOR!" the 6-foot-4 Fritz calmly approached the net for the post-match handshake, then leaped up to celebrate the win. He was congratulated on court by one of his most ardent supporters, his cousin Matthew Fritz, who has Down syndrome.
"I usually don't go crazy at all, actually," he explained. "But the crowd was just so electric. After I shook his hand, they just got me into it."
You get the feeling there'll be plenty more celebrations to come for Fritz, who carries an almost Sampras-esque athletic ease on the court and, like Cilic, can light it up from the service stripe. But what impressed most against the 2014 US Open titlist Cilic was his ability to nullify the Croat's serve with what may just be the weakest part of his game: his return.
Asked if he keeps an eye on the Emirates ATP Race to Milan, a season-long competition that will bring together the top 21-and-under players for the inaugural NextGen ATP Finals in Italy in November, Fritz didn't hesitate:
"If I am going to be totally honest, I check it a lot," he confided. "I do want to be there. I feel like it would be a huge honor to be there, because there are so many new people who came up at the end of last year and this year, and the whole the NextGen campaign. So many new, amazing players who just make the race so much tougher. I think it would be really cool to be in it the first year. I do check it a lot. I'm definitely looking at it."
But he's not looking too far ahead. When an enterprising young Scholastic News reporter asked him, "Since you just beat a Grand Slam champion, does this mean you're going to be a Grand Slam champion?" Fritz didn't flinch: "I really hope so, but it's a long way away and a lot of hard work."