The week in tennis: Taylor Fritz is on fire, Frances Tiafoe pranks Andy Murray and more

Sports

It’s no secret that the American men have struggled at majors for much of this century — it’s been 20 years since one hoisted a Grand Slam singles trophy. And while that lengthy drought is less than ideal, there have been a number of bright spots lately.

Perhaps no one has consistently provided sources of optimism for the country over the past few years more than Taylor Fritz. The 25-year-old captured the sixth title of his career on Sunday with a 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-4 victory over Aleksandar Vukic in the Atlanta Open final. It marked the second title of the season for Fritz, and he’s now won his last five finals on tour — a streak that started with his surprising victory over Rafael Nadal for the 2022 Indian Wells trophy.

On Sunday, after not dropping a set en route to the final, Fritz struggled to close out the match after a strong start — losing two championship points on return at 6-5 in the second set. But ultimately, he found a way in the decider.

“I’ve played this tournament five times before and [reached] the semis [in 2021] and final [in 2019],” Fritz said after. “I feel like I’ve always been close so it’s nice, I don’t think I could’ve handled another loss in the final. It feels really good to get the job done.”

Currently the top-ranked American man at No. 9, he now enters this week’s Citi Open as the No. 1 seed and will have yet another chance with a supportive home crowd to prove he’s a legitimate threat for the upcoming US Open.

Fritz wasn’t the only winner, on home soil or elsewhere, this week. Here’s what else you might have missed:


More history for Swiatek

At just 22 years old, Iga Swiatek has made this whole tennis thing look easy since bursting onto the scene. As of this week, she has held the world No. 1 ranking for 70 consecutive weeks, making her just the third woman ever to hold the spot for that long in her first stint in the position and just the eighth woman in history to do so.

While Swiatek has already achieved so much in her career, there was one more feat she was able to cross off her list on Sunday, when she won the title at her hometown tournament in Warsaw. With her dominant 6-0, 6-1 victory over Laura Siegemund in just 68 minutes, Swiatek became the first Polish woman to win a WTA title in Poland in the Open Era.

It was the 15th career title for Swiatek and she said that winning at home — the event was even held at the tennis club in which she trains — had been particularly difficult. She had finished her semifinal match earlier in the day after it was suspended on Saturday due to darkness.

“It’s not easy to play in Warsaw, but I’m so happy that we could manage and do everything we could today, after a pretty tiring day yesterday,” Swiatek said. “I wanted to put it all in and go for it. I’m pretty happy that I did.”

Swiatek celebrated by posing for pictures with the trophy and yelling her trademark “Jazda!” (“Let’s go!” in Polish), with the ball kids.


Get your tissues ready

Alexei Popyrin won the second ATP title of his career on Sunday with a 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4 victory over Stan Wawrinka at the Croatia Open, but it was what he did after the match that truly won the crowd over.

“For me to play a final against you, it’s an honor,” Popyrin, 23, said to the 38-year-old Wawrinka. “I grew up rooting for you, and I rooted for you in every single Grand Slam final that you played.

“Honestly man, I love you and I love the love that you have for the sport.”

And, if the room isn’t dusty enough yet, Wawrinka couldn’t hide his emotions when addressing the crowd. Having just played in his first final in four years, and at the site of his first ATP title in 2006(!), the three-time major champion cried as he spoke.

“I know it’s so stupid to cry, but I love this sport so much,” Wawrinka said. “You make it really special. Amazing week. Hopefully I can come back. Thank you for the support during the week. Thank you for being here and hopefully I’ll see you next year.”


A final of firsts

Fifteen years after winning the Australian Open junior title and turning pro soon after, 32-year-old Arantxa Rus won the first WTA title of her career on Saturday at the Hamburg European Open. And not only was it her first title, it was her first final as well — making her the oldest debut WTA finalist since 2007.

Rus defeated fellow first-time finalist Noma Noha Akugue, a 19-year-old wild card and Hamburg native, for the title, 6-0, 7-6 (3). After the match, she dedicated the triumph to her late father. This is for you Pap,” Rus wrote on Instagram. “Thank you for all you did for me and I know you are smiling from Heaven now.”

Rus, who was ranked outside the top 100 for much of the year and needed to go through qualifying for the season’s first three majors, is now ranked a new career high of No. 42 following the victory. Noha Akugue, who entered the tournament ranked No. 207, is now at a new best of No. 142.


Latest milestone for Eubanks

It’s been a breakthrough season for Christopher Eubanks. After cracking the top 100 for the first time in his career in April, he went on to reach his first major quarterfinals at Wimbledon behind impressive wins over the likes of Cameron Norrie and Stefanos Tsitsipas. He jumped to a new career-high ranking of No. 31 following the incredible run at the All England Club — and now, just two weeks later, he’s into the top 30 for the first time.

After a quarterfinal showing in his hometown at the Atlanta Open, where he was given a hero’s welcome by the fans, Eubanks is now ranked No. 29. He could rise up the rankings even further this week at the Citi Open. Not too shabby for a guy who was ranked No. 156 this time last year.


All in the family

Tennis has had its share of dynamic siblings over the years — Serena and Venus Williams, Andy and Jamie Murray, Bob and Mike Bryan, Marat Safin and Dinara Safina — and it seems like we soon might have one more set of brothers to add to that list.

You already know Carlos Alcaraz, the 20-year-old world No. 1 and reigning US Open and Wimbledon champion, but it was his 11-year-old brother Jaime who was the talk of the tennis world over the weekend. Playing in the under-12 boys’ division at a Rafa Nadal Tour event in Barcelona, Jaime won five matches to earn the title and a true statement-piece trophy shaped like Nadal’s logo.

Interestingly, Carlos participated in the same tournament in the under-14 draw in 2016 and — surprise, surprise — was also victorious.

And for those who like to think really far ahead into the future, we might have a chance to add the Williams Sisters 2.0 to this list at some point. On Monday, Serena revealed she was expecting another daughter. A Serena to Olympia’s Venus if you will.


Going for gold

Shortly after announcing her return to tennis, former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki revealed that winning an Olympic medal was one of her goals for her comeback, and she hoped to team up with fellow Dane Holger Rune in mixed doubles at the 2024 Paris Games.

Rune was quick to publicly agree with the plan. “I was so happy when she said that,” he said on an interview on Tennis Channel just days later.

And it seems the pair have wasted no time making that dream a reality. The duo practiced together on Monday in Monte Carlo and put their future competition on notice.

And sure, it’s still early and all, but it seems as if the mixed doubles draw in Paris could be one for the books as Polish star Hubert Hurkacz announced he would be playing with Swiatek at the event in a tweet over the weekend.


Ahead of this week’s Citi Open, Andy Murray was doing a standard pre-tournament video interview but he couldn’t figure out why the interviewer was laughing at his answers.

After two questions and 29 seconds — and Murray thinking the interviewer was “a bit rude” — the three-time major champion finally realized what was so funny. Frances Tiafoe had been standing directly behind him and leaning over his shoulder, comically just listening and waiting to be noticed. Murray later said he “didn’t even feel him” as he joined in the laughter.

Is this hilarious? Concerning? A bad sign for Murray’s peripheral vision? We’ll let you decide.

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