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Taylor Fritz knows his time is now

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The question has been asked so often that it has become a cliché: When is an American going to win a men’s Grand Slam title in tennis?

“We joke about the question,” 24-year-old Taylor Fritz told The Post ahead of this year’s US Open. “It happens so much. I’ve been hearing it since I was 18.”

Taylor Fritz tries to hit a tennis ball from the stands into a bathtub on the court during Arthur Ashe Kids Day with members of Dude Perfect.
Getty Images

“I don’t think it’s a flag problem,” added Frances Tiafoe, also 24.

In case you haven’t heard the joke, or you’ve lived in a cave for the past two decades, the last time a US male player won a major was nearly 20 years ago when Andy Roddick conquered the 2003 US. Open, where he defeated Juan Carlos Ferrera in straight sets.

What has happened since then?

Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer of course. The Big 3 have won 62 of their combined 63 majors in that period, with Federer’s 2003 win at Wimbledon being the only standout.

But with Federer still out of action as he recovers from knee surgery, Djokovic watches from home for his refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and Nadal suffered a laceration in his abdomen that knocked him out of the Wimbledon semi-finals. there is more than just hope for everyone else.

As for the Americans’ best odds, take your pick.

Six of them in the draw are in the top 50 in the world: Fritz, Tiafoe, Tommy Paul, Max Cressy, Jenson Brooksby and Jon Isner. Just outside that group is 52nd and 22-year-old Sebastian Korda, many of whom say he has the most talent of the group in tennis. But he is still young and has no experience on the big stage, having only made it past the third round of a major twice.

Likewise, 19-year-old Ben Shelton is on the cusp of becoming “The Next Big Thing” in American men’s tennis. The University of Florida alumnus recently turned pro, reaching his first Challenger final in just two months, winning his first ATP match and taking his first top-five win. The future looks bright for the son of former tour player Bryan Shelton, but again, experience.

If there’s one American whose time should be now, it’s Fritz – and he knows it.

“I’m really done with it” [being] close,” Fritz told The Post. “I’m almost defeated” [the Big 3] for years. I took that ‘positive’ [of a good match] gone too often. I can no longer be happy with almost winning.”

Early in the year, it looked like he might be over it. Two months after losing a two-set lead to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the round of 16 at the Australian Open, he defeated Nadal in straight sets at Indian Wells for his first ATP 1000 Series title. A few months later, he defeated Cressy to claim another title at Eastbourne the week before Wimbledon.

Taylor Fritz reacts to a point during his match against Andrey Rublev at the Western & Southern Open at the Lindner Family Tennis Center.
Taylor Fritz reacts to a point during his match against Andrey Rublev at the Western & Southern Open at the Lindner Family Tennis Center.
Susan Mullane/US TODAY Sports

Then followed another confrontation against Nadal, this time in the All England Club. Fritz was twice a game away from knocking out the injured Spaniard and reaching the semi-finals, but lost in a grueling five-set tiebreak. Going into the race, Fritz felt good considering his previous win. He was devastated and left angry.

“To be able to beat one of those guys when there’s a title on the line and play a clean game and not be afraid of it is big,” he told The Post. “I was so much more confident because I had already beaten him and grass is right for me. I was more upset that I lost.”

However, the following month in Washington DC, Fritz was simply “embarrassed” after he retired from heat exhaustion in his Round of 16 match against Dan Evans, who was leading 3-6, 7-6 (6) and 4-1. when he stopped. He later apologized on social media.

Maybe it was a wake-up call.

Earlier this month in Cincinnati, Fritz defeated arguably the best player in the world, Wimbledon runner-up and Citi Open champion Nick Kyrgios, 6-3, 6-2, in the second round. Then he fell to world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the quarterfinals.

A reputation also persists: Taylor Fritz likes being a Taylor Fritz a little too much, whether it’s the model girlfriend, starring in a Netflix documentary about life on tour, or enjoying the booty of young, handsome and being talented.

Still, there are reasons for the tough American with a big forehand to be optimistic when it comes to going deep into Flushing. He is 35-14 this season, has the two titles on his resume, has already beaten Nadal once and has reached at least the fourth round in two of the first three majors of the year.

“If grass isn’t my best surface, then clay courts are,” said Fritz, whose best result at the US Open is twice the third round. “In the past, historically I have not done well at this time of year, but I am also such a different player than all the other years since the end of last year. My game has gone to another level, so I am delighted to go into this as a different player for the first time.”

We will see.

At least he doesn’t have to worry about most of The Big 3, and that could go a long way.

“You’re playing in an era where the three best players of all time are playing at the same time,” Fritz said. “It’s just now starting to feel like I can compete against those guys or win titles. It was like that when I was 18 or 19, I just hope you get a good draw.”

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