For tennis fans, December is the worst month of the year. With the season over and zero tournaments to be played, we are left with Tennis Channel marathons and opportunities to look back at the biggest moments of the 2022 season.
The one benefit of the month is we have the proper time to recap and break down all the results we’ve seen for the past 11 months. In turn, we can begin to make assumptions as to how 2023 will turn out based on a large sample size.
With that in mind, we’re targeting five players for what we’re calling our “2023 Dropshot Network Player Files.” These five players represent the most intriguing of the upcoming season — based on how their 2022’s went and how their storylines project for the season to come.
We already took a deep dive into Nick Kyrgios, so now let’s break down American Taylor Fritz.
Notable 2022 Results
Overall, there’s not many players in the world who had a better 2022 than Fritz. The American won three titles (Tokyo, Indian Wells, Eastbourne), reached a career-high ranking of eighth in the world and earned a spot in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon.
He was granted a berth in the ATP Finals when Carlos Alcaraz pulled out due to an abdominal injury, and Fritz took advantage of his opportunity. He defeated Rafael Nadal for the second time in 2022 and was gifted a spot in the semifinals, where he lost to Novak Djokovic, 6-7, 6-7.
While the stats and accolades are impressive to say the least, it wasn’t all sunshine and daisies for Fritz. He went through bouts of questionable results and odd inconsistencies late in the season, often struggling to put away opponents or blowing leads uncharacteristically.
Remember, the 25-year-old lost in the opening round of the US Open to 303rd-ranked Brandon Holt. He then had a rough go in the Davis Cup, getting beaten in straight sets by Botic van de Zandschulp before blowing a 6-2 lead against Cameron Norrie.
We’re getting nit-picky here, so let’s remember the big picture: Fritz is still top-10 in the world and is the most promising chance America has to win a tennis Grand Slam in some time.
The State of Fritz Heading Into 2023
So, why was Fritz chosen as part of this exercise? Well, like Kyrgios, Fritz is still seeking his first Grand Slam of his career.
And to get there, he’s going to have to take a large leap.
Fritz has yet to make it past the Round of 16 in three of the four majors. His quarterfinal appearance in Wimbledon this past season was the furthest he’s ever been in a Grand Slam, and he failed to win that match despite playing a hobbled Nadal.
The American has obviously proven he can play on the big stage — winning Indian Wells and making the semis of the ATP Finals are no slouch — but the majors are a whole different ball game pressure-wise.
Fritz isn’t just carrying the burden of his own success; he’s also carrying that of a whole country. The United States hasn’t had a Grand Slam winner since Andy Roddick won the US Open back in 2003.
Frances Tiafoe reached the semifinals of the US Open, Tommy Paul had the best year of his career in 2022 and Maxime Cressy, Brandon Nakashima, Sebastian Korda and Jenson Brooksby have all shown flashes of brilliance. But no one has been as consistent as Fritz. He’s the “veteran” of the bunch (along with John Isner and Reilly Opelka), and his success motivates the guys I mentioned above.
So, if you’re wondering why Fritz is a part of this series we’ve put together at Dropshot Network, then the answer lies with the weight of American tennis.
The Art of Fritz
Fritz may not have the God-given athleticism of Kyrgios, but he wears down his opponents with his high tennis IQ and his lethal groundstrokes. He used to rely heavily on his serve, but this past season, his newfound aggressive on both wings has helped him round out his game.
The American is well-rounded surface-wise, too. He’s obviously well-versed on hard courts, but he’s won two titles on grass and had the best Wimbledon of his career in 2022. While his least amount of experience comes on clay, he still has an over .500 record on the surface overall.
Ultimately, Fritz is a classic case of someone who has developed over the years thanks to his level-headed mindset, a strong work ethic and his ability to try out new tactics (like his more offensive approach that worked successfully).
That is good news for the years to come, but especially for 2023. As Fritz continues to gain more experience, confidence and faces more challenges, he will eventually overcome issues that arise because of his mindset.
Does he have a career ceiling (like fellow American Isner)? I’m sure there is one, but until we see his career trajectory plateau, it’s unfair to say “yes” — especially since all he’s done so far is “rise.”
What Tournaments Mean Most to Fritz?
I think it’s obvious if you read everything above, but Fritz should be focused on taking the next step in majors in 2023. That doesn’t necessarily mean he has to win a Grand Slam for 2023 to be a success — he just has to do more damage and show he belongs in the conversation as a major champion.
But let’s be honest, Fritz is not a player who shows lacking motivation elsewhere. He’s had success from the 250 events to the 1000s and in between. He obviously would love to defend his title at Indian Wells, capture a 1000-event championship in Miami and have a boatload of success on his home soil during the US Open Series, but Fritz is about his full body of work.
One spot where things will be particularly revenge-worthy for Fritz will be Flushing Meadows. The weight of the expectations may have been a little too big this year (there was a lot of talk about Fritz being a darkhorse to win the US Open), or maybe he underestimated Holt. Either way, Fritz will no doubt have extra motivation for that one in September 2023.
Conclusion to Fritz
Fritz is only 25, so this is not exactly a make-or-break season for the American. However, it’s time for him to become more of a factor at the biggest tournaments in tennis (aka Grand Slams) while proving to his hometown fans that the revival of American tennis is indeed real.
It will be tough to top last season, but all Fritz has done in his career is improve, grow and win.
If the late-season inconsistencies are just a blimp on the radar, the American has plenty of room to take another step in 2023 — and that could mean more titles and eventually a Grand Slam trophy.