Taylor Fritz finally put away his junior rival Tommy Paul, and American tennis made more history on Sunday in the first All-American US Open junior boys’ final since 2010.
Fritz, who lives in California, beat Paul, who resides in Florida, 6-2, 6-7, 6-2, in a rain-delayed title match that finished under the lights on Court 17 amid the echoing roars from the men’s final being played in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Fritz, the No. 1 junior in the world, gained his first junior boys’ major title in what could be his last junior tournament.
“I wanted to win a junior Slam [title] so bad,” said Fritz, who turned pro last month. “I can't believe I actually got the perfect ending.”
American tennis also enjoyed an ideal ending to what was an outstanding Grand Slam season.
For the first time since 1977, U.S. boys won three of the four junior boys’ titles at majors. This also is the first year since junior competition began that three different boys have won the three titles: Reilly Opelka won the boys title at Wimbledon, Paul won the French Open boys’ title, and Fritz captured the US Open title.
It was a tricky match for the 17-year-old Fritz, who had twice lost to Paul, 18.
But both of those defeats came on red clay, including the junior boys’ title match at the French Open in June.
On hard courts, Fritz could more effectively use his powerful serve and big forehand against Paul, who qualified for the US Open men’s singles main draw but lost in the first round. He did just that on Sunday, hitting 11 aces and winning 83 percent of his first-serve points, although he landed only half of his first-serve attempts.
During the first set, Fritz erased all three break points he faced and twice broke Paul.
The second set appeared to be heading down a similar path. At 5-3, Fritz had a match point on Paul’s serve. But Paul turned the match around by dragging Fritz into long, side-to-side rallies from the baseline, which typically favored Paul, whose quickness helped him retrieve most balls.
Paul held and then broke Fritz for the first time. After Paul won the second-set tiebreaker by winning a number of long rallies, Fritz yelled, “He’s impossible to beat!”
“I felt like there was absolutely nothing I could do for some of those points. I played them so well and I thought, ‘Wow, if he can keep doing this, I just don't see any chance of me winning,’ because I just couldn't put a ball away,” Fritz said after the match.
Paul grabbed momentum to start the third set as well, again breaking Fritz. But the Californian played more aggressively and won the final set by breaking Paul three times.
“It was really just who could pull out that like one extra shot at the end of the point,” Fritz said.
Paul did have injury troubles. He took a medical timeout at the end of the first set because of his right shoulder, but after the match, he downplayed the injury and credited Fritz for playing well. “It was a good match from both of us,” Paul said.
The victory also was a celebration for the Fritz family. His parents, his girlfriend and his stepbrother were on hand for the match. “I was very proud of the way he came back after having match point, after serving for the match, being down a break early in the third,” said Taylor’s dad, Guy Fritz, who’s been working on Taylor's tennis with his son since he was 2.
After the match, Paul and Fritz smiled for photos and draped an American flag from their shoulders. The flag, blowing in the wind, almost looked like a cape.
But after the match, Fritz declined to speculate on what kind of pro career he wants to have. And why would he? He has plenty to celebrate right now.