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INDIAN WELLS: Fritz struggles with wind, falls in Round of 16

Borna Coric brought his rally machine to Indian Wells on Wednesday, much to the chagrin of a pro-USA crowd eager to see homegrown Taylor Fritz take yet another step in his career maturation.

Playing in the Round of 16 and looking for a berth in the quarterfinals, Fritz (Palos Verdes) looked steady and confident in holding his opening serve. Yet increased hitting errors plagued Fritz throughout the set, as the American hopeful was unable to finish lengthy rallies with success. Coric, on the other hand, was more than willing to extend rallies and wait patiently for Fritz to falter, closing the set at 6-2 with a powerful serve that merely tickled Fritz’s racquet as it passed by.

“The only way I could win a point,” Fritz said afterwards of Coric’s dominance and the swirling winds in the first set, “was to hit a big shot. It was tough to time the ball.”

In the second set, Fritz rallied on serve in the seventh game. Finding a welcome groove (“I changed my strategy for the conditions,” he said in retrospect), Fritz laced two winners in the game, taking a 4-3 lead. The momentum shifted as the Indian Wells crowd stirred, watching Fritz move Coric side to side and forcing a service break. But even with the ball on his racquet, Fritz could not lock up the set, Coric responded with a break of his own and a service hold.

In a second set tiebreak, Fritz managed to win more of the long rallies that he’d lose, securing the tiebreak and sending the match to a deciding third set. But Coric maintained his game plan, outlasting Fritz in long rallies and logging a crucial service break to finish the match, 6-2, 6-7, 6-4.

“It’s probably the biggest match I’ve played in my career,” Fritz said afterwards. “To make the quarterfinals of a Masters, it’s really tough to lose that match.”

Still in the mix is Santa Monica’s Sam Querrey, who dispatched Yuki Bhambri in three sets, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4. Querrey moves on to the Round of 16 to face Feliciano Lopez, the Spaniard who ousted Jack Sock, the top ranked American on the ATP Tour.

NOTES

Top seed Simona Halep has been challenged in a couple of her matches thus far, yet the top seed continues to exhibit outstanding play as she storms through the Women’s Draw. By comparison, Roger Federer looks like his young/old self as he cruises towards Sunday’s final, though a pending showdown with Juan Martin del Potro could provide ample challenge.

On Wednesday, Wayne Bryan’s Tennis Talk – a daily Q&A session outside Stadium 1 – was of particular interest to those who appreciate tennis history. Bryan welcomed tennis legend Rod Laver, a 2017 inductee to the Southern California Tennis Association Hall of Fame. Wayne’s kids – better known as Mike and Bob, the Bryan Brothers, return to doubles action this evening at Indian Wells.

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