Upheaval sends Fritz, Basilashvili to Indian Wells semifinals
Taylor Fritz beat No.3 seed Alexander Zverev 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) on Friday to reach the BNP Paribas Open semi-finals in front of a home crowd, scoring his youngster’s biggest win career.
Fritz recovered from a 5-2 deficit in the third set by winning four of five games – when Zverev held two match points – to force the tiebreaker. He took a 6-1 lead and won it on his third match point when Zverev’s forehand landed over the baseline.
“I continued to fight,” said Fritz. “The crowd pushing me meant so much.”
Fritz was clearly the favorite at Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where Rod Laver, 83, watched. Fritz, the 23-year-old son of retired Top 10 player Kathy May, grew up in the San Diego area and competed in the tournament as a youth.
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Fritz had already won five wins against Top 10 players in 2019, including No.5 Dominic Thiem at the Laver Cup. Now he has won his biggest blow by beating Zverev, ranked fourth in the world.
“It’s the furthest I’ve ever been in a big tournament,” said Fritz, who won his first ATP Tour title at Eastbourne in 2019. “It’s easily the best win of my life, against a really tough opponent in probably the biggest game I could play, so that’s great. “
Fritz’s opponent in the semi-final on Saturday is 29th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, who outlasted number 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. The other semi-final will feature No.21 Cameron Norrie against No.23 Grigor Dimitrov, who previously knocked out favorite Daniil Medvedev in straight sets.
“This one hurts because I knew after Stefanos lost I was kind of the favorite to win this tournament,” Zverev said, “but my tennis wasn’t there yet.”
Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Zverev had been the highest remaining men’s seed in the combined ATP and WTA event which was moved to the fall from his usual March date due to the coronavirus pandemic. The upheavals wiped out several top players in a tournament that lacked both its usual crowds and its biggest stars, including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams.
The women’s semi-finals on Friday night pitted Victoria Azarenka against Jelena Ostapenko and Ons Jabeur against Paula Badosa.
Fritz beat two match points as he beat Zverev to lead 5-4 in the third set. Zverev’s 135 mph ace established his second match point, but he double faults.
Fritz served a love match for a five-way draw. After Zverev held the court to nearly half the shade of the scorching late afternoon sun, Fritz held on again to force the tiebreaker.
“I just had the confidence to keep hitting my forehand, to keep being aggressive,” said Fritz. “Whenever the opportunity to do a play arose, I went for it.”
Ranked 36th in the world, Basilashvili beat Roger Federer in the quarter-finals in Doha in March to win the title.
“My victory against Roger meant a lot to me because he was my idol,” Basilashvili said. “I would say Roger’s victory was very important in my career. Beating Stefanos today was also a very, very important game.”
The 29-year-old Georgian beat Tsitsipas for the first time in three tries. Ranked third, Tsitsipas has 54 victories on the ATP Tour this year.
Basilashvili held on to win the first set before Tsitsipas broke through the second set.
In the third, Tsitsipas fell behind the baseline while chasing a shot in Game 3 and came back with a limp. But the Greek got away and beat Basilashvili and then held on to a 3-2 lead.
Basilashvili have won three straight games for a 5-3 lead. Tsitsipas served three aces to lead 5-4. Basilashvili pulled out his own ace to set match point and produced another big serve that Tsitsipas couldn’t come back to close the game in just over two hours.
“I got very tight at the end of the game,” said Basilashvili. “My physical level dropped a bit in the third set because of the emotions.”