Better Late Than Never (Around the Grounds at the 2018 US Open)

Robert Cole/ALOST

 – by Ashley Burroughs
A Lot of Sports Talk contributing reporter

NEW YORK — In advancing to his first-ever third round at a Grand Slam tournament on Wednesday, Taylor Fritz, the 21-year-old San Diegan who is the son of two former professional tennis players, lived out the dream in having his initial “I have arrived!” breakout performance that scores of young Yanks with hopes of being a pro athlete surely have envisioned ad infinitum.

In Fritz’s somnolent visions as a youth, however, he imagined this special day while gripping a football. Or while slipping on a baseball glove. Or unleashing a hundred-miles-per-hour shot with a lacrosse stick.

Anything but a dream while holding a tennis racquet.

Growing up with Kathy May, a former top-10 player on the women’s tour, as your mother and Guy Fritz, an All-American tennis player at the University of San Diego and the 2015 Team USA Developmental Coach of the Year as your father surely would have meant that any child in the family could not help but be immersed in the game their parents excelled in. Being surrounded by tennis ended up being the reason young Taylor, an admitted Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers fan, gravitated to many other sports that did not involve a yellow ball and synthetic strings.

“I had so much tennis going on, and I honestly wasn’t — like, I didn’t really love tennis when I was young,” Fritz said after his second-round win over Australian Jason Kubler. “I played so many other sports, and I was just interested in a lot of other sports and different things. There was just so much tennis going on around me. I didn’t watch it.”

It took just his third-ever ATP Tour event for Fritz to make a tour-level final, back in 2016. (Robert Cole/ALOST)

While tennis was limited on his own volition during his development, many other activities were well within Taylor’s orbit.

“Let’s see…I played soccer, I played baseball, basketball, I played lacrosse, I played football. I think that’s it,” Fritz said.

His tennis pedigree ended up winning out in his teens, as Taylor chose to play tennis – a choice that has become a wise decision. In 2015, the 6-foot-4 Fritz became the ITF Junior World Champion and was tabbed by a number of American tennis experts as having the potential to become the next great tennis player from The States. That sentiment only grew after he became the youngest American to reach an ATP Tour Final since Michael Chang in 1988 when he made the final in Memphis in 2016.

Currently ranked No. 74, Fritz had an opportunity on Friday to claim his first Top 10 victory at a major when facing Austria’s Dominic Thiem, who beat Fritz at last year’s US Open in four close sets. Thiem stopped Fritz’s 2018 US Open run with another tight four-set win on the Grandstand on Friday, but another close call against one of the game’s best players continues to reinforce that Fritz’s aspirations to become a top professional are not far from becoming reality.

“As a young guy, [I’m] definitely looking to compete against the best players in the world and kind of earn my spot and show people that I can compete with those type of players,” Fritz said before his match against Thiem.

Taylor’s involvement in tennis also has piqued his interest in either turning on the television or going on the courts in person to watch more of the sport when he is not on the court.

“I started watching [tennis] a lot more when I became a pro just because I became more into it,” Fritz said. “I definitely fell in love with the game.”

It was not love at first sight for Fritz and the sport of tennis, but love – err, tennis – ended up conquering all.

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