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Home Cooking: Fritz Flies To Newport Beach Title Defense

From Melbourne to Disneyland to Newport Beach. Taylor Fritz took quite the unconventional route to lift his fifth ATP Challenger Tour trophy.
Exactly one year ago, the 21-year-old American scored his biggest title yet, capturing the crown in Newport Beach. One year later, Fritz found success once again in Southern California, notching the first successful title defense of his young career.
Located less than an hour from his hometown of Rancho Santa Fe, Fritz feels right at home at the Oracle Challenger Series Newport Beach. He streaked to the title on Sunday, downing Brayden Schnur 7-6(7), 6-4 in one hour and 25 minutes. The American was battle tested throughout the week, clawing from a set down on two occasions, before saving a set point against Schnur en route to the title.
Last year, Fritz left Newport Beach at No. 76 in the ATP Rankings. Now, he has risen to a career-high No. 40 with his latest victory in the California town.
The 21-year-old has kicked off his 2019 campaign in strong fashion, having also reached the quarter-finals at the ATP Tour stop in Auckland and third round at the Australian Open. Fritz upset Gael Monfils in four tight sets in Melbourne, before falling to Roger Federer.

🏆Newport Beach🏆 Cutest trophy pic in history with my little man😍
— Taylor Fritz (@Taylor_Fritz97) January 28, 2019
The American spoke about his victory…
Congrats Taylor. How does it feel to successfully defend a title for the first time?
It feels good, because there’s a lot of pressure that comes with it. To deal with the pressure and come out on top makes it that much sweeter. I just didn’t think about it to be honest. I knew that if I competed hard and played my game, I wouldn’t have to do anything special.
What was the key today against Brayden?
My serve. My serve got me through a lot of tough situations and it closed out the match for me. I knew it was going to be a close match, because he doesn’t have much to lose playing me. I expected him to come out swinging. I just tried to neutralise his serve as much as possible with deep returns. I told myself that it doesn’t really matter how well he serves, as long as I don’t get broken. In the second set, I was able to steal a break and hold my serve through the rest of the match.

You had a long trip from Australia and went right to work here. How did you manage the different conditions?
I needed to play my way into the tournament. Coming off a flight from Australia and straight to playing matches was tough. I’ve been playing with different balls on a different court speed for the past two months, so it was just a lot to get used to. 
I flew out of Australia on Sunday at 1pm and landed here on Sunday at 9am. I didn’t sleep at all on the plane and drove straight to Disneyland because it was my son’s birthday. I was there all day and was dead after. I slept until 1pm on Monday and then I drove here that night. But I only had about 30 minutes of practice before my first match. The wind on Tuesday really messed up my plans before my first match on Wednesday. But I was able to find my way as the week went on.
Being from Southern California, did you have any friends and family come out? How nice is it to play so close to home?
For sure, I had all my friends from school come out. My whole family too – my mom and dad and my wife and son. They all came out. I always play my best at home. In Indian Wells and here to win the title twice, I always do well in Calfornia.

It’s been a great start to the year, also reaching the Auckland quarters and third round at the Australian Open. Talk about the importance of starting the year strong.
It’s really important to start the year strong. I always slow down a bit when the Europe swing comes around, so I need to get as much a lead on everyone now. I usually start the year strong because it’s fast courts in Australia which I like and then the U.S. swing which I play well in. It’s usually a stressful time of year for me, but so far it’s the best start to a season I’ve ever had. I’m just looking to build off it and keep moving forward.
You got a big win over Gael Monfils in Australia and faced Roger Federer too. How important are those matches to see where your game is against the top players?
It’s really important, especially playing three out of five sets. They’re just really mental and physical matches. And against someone like Monfils and Federer, who have played a million best-of-five set matches, it’s really good for me to see that I can come out on top. I wish I could have played better against Roger, but being on the big stages against the best players, I just need more experience with that so I can handle the moment better and play my best tennis.

He did it again! @Taylor_Fritz97 is defending his @OracleChallngrs Newport Beach title with a hard fought 76(6) 64 victory over @BraydenSchnur. Very well done, Taylor! Great final by both players. Great audience. @ATPChallenger
— OracleTennis (@OracleTennis) January 27, 2019
What did you and your team focus on with your preseason training?
I did two weeks of very light hitting, mainly just weightlifting and conditioning. Tons of gym stuff. Our trainer in Orlando, Brent Salazar, is great. Toughest guy I’ve ever worked with. He’s an ex-NFL strength and conditioning coach. So he was absolutely killing us for a couple weeks there. Then I came back to Carson (California) and worked a lot on my serve. Just hitting all the spots and being able to serve anywhere. A lot of movement too. It’s showing, because I feel stronger and faster as well.
Finally, you are up to a career-high of 40 in the ATP Rankings. Did you set any goals for the year? How high can you climb?
I want to be Top 20 by the end of the year. Recently, I’ve seen that a lot of the guys around my age who finished a season around Top 40, would explode into the Top 20. Guys like Medvedev, Khachanov and Coric. I feel like this is a big year for me to rapidly move up the rankings.
Source: ATP World Tour

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