He certainly did soak up the moment. He loved every part of playing in front of a crowd that large. He tried a bit of showmanship, on one point faking as if he was going down the line, then hitting crosscourt. Problem was, Federer caught up to the ball, responded with a fake of his own and hit a winner.
Fritz had been posterized.
“I tried to play with him,” he said, “and, well, he played me back.”
Then he spoke of his last stand. Of trying to simply survive. “Regroup, hold serve, hold serve,” he said he kept telling himself, like a mantra.
It didn’t work. Everyone could feel it, most notably his opponent. “Federer was rolling,” Fritz said. “I’ve seen it so many times before, on TV. Once he is in front, he smothers you.”
The end was inevitable. The final score: 6-2, 7-5, 6-2.
Next up for Federer is the round of 16, and another dangerous young player: Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 20-year-old from Greece, part of a group of 23-and-under men making waves in Melbourne. The American Frances Tiafoe, who turns 21 on Sunday, is in the fourth round of a major for the first time after following his upset of fifth-seeded Kevin Anderson with a five-set win over Andreas Seppi on Friday.
Taylor Fritz, meantime, will return to California, itching for more center courts, more Grand Slam tournaments, more matches against the very best. Against Federer, he experienced aspects of tennis that, if copied, will add significantly to his growth. How to disrupt timing. When to use angles. The way pouncing on the slimmest openings can change tone.
“This was such a learning experience for me,” he said. “I plan to take it and get better, get more comfortable in these moments, so I can play the way I know I can play. I plan to use this as a steppingstone.”
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