Fritz rallies from 2 sets down to reach quarters

LONDON — After Taylor Fritz deposited a backhand that Alexander Zverev didn’t even chase, wrapping up the American’s comeback from a two-set hole in Wimbledon’s fourth round Monday, the men met at the net for what turned into a longer than usual chat.

Zverev, playing with a bone bruise in his right knee, said he was bothered by some of the cheering coming from Fritz’s guest box in the fifth set. When Fritz began to move away, Zverev stuck his chest to block the path and continued the mostly one-sided exchange.

This wasn’t the 13th-seeded Fritz’s only noteworthy postmatch interaction at the All England Club this fortnight — he told an earlier opponent to “have a nice flight home” — but he shrugged this one off, more interested in thinking about the way he turned things around to defeat two-time Grand Slam finalist Zverev 4-6, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-3 and reach the quarterfinals.

“It was amazing,” Fritz, 26, from California, said, “to do that on Centre Court [at] Wimbledon, two sets down.”

Zverev said later that his issue wasn’t with Fritz or his two coaches, but rather with others in the winner’s support group “that are not maybe from the tennis world, that are not maybe [used to] watching every single match; they were a bit over the top.”

“He’s totally allowed to be annoyed if they were being annoying. … That’s one of the things I asked him at the net, ‘Who was it?'” Fritz, who next meets 25th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti, a first-time Slam quarterfinalist, said. “It’s not a big thing. It’s all good.”

The implication from Zverev was that there was no need for the entourage to be acting quite so excited when his knee, which was covered by a gray sleeve after a fall in the previous round, was such a significant factor in Monday’s outcome.

“I was playing on one leg,” Zverev said. “It was fairly obvious that I wasn’t 100% today, right? I wasn’t moving, really, the entire match. I wasn’t running for drop shots. If I was running for a drop shot, I was limping there more than running.”

The 3½-hour match, played with the main stadium’s retractable roof shut, was the 35th to go five sets at Wimbledon this year, tying the record for the most at any Slam event in the Open era, which began in 1968. Fritz’s comeback is the 11th from a two-set deficit in this edition of the grass-court tournament, more than in any other year.

This will be Fritz’s fourth major quarterfinal and second at Wimbledon, where he lost to Rafael Nadal in 2022. He is 0-3 at that stage; the other two setbacks came against Novak Djokovic.

“This will be my first quarterfinal where I’m the more experienced person,” Fritz said.

Fritz joins good pal Tommy Paul in the final eight, giving the United States two men that deep in the tournament for the first time since 2000. The other quarterfinal on the bottom half of the men’s draw will be No. 9 Alex De Minaur against seven-time Wimbledon champion Djokovic, who dismissed No. 15 Holger Rune 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in Monday night’s last match on Centre Court.

Spectators often let out loud noises that sounded like “Ruuuuune” — the young Dane often gets saluted that way during matches — but Djokovic thought the folks in the stands were actually saying “Booooo,” and he let them know he was not pleased.

Musetti gave Italy three singles quarterfinalists at a major for the first time — He got there with No. 1 Jannik Sinner in the men’s bracket; No. 7 Jasmine Paolini is still in the women’s field — by beating Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. De Minaur eliminated Arthur Fils 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

The fourth-seeded Zverev was the runner-up to Carlos Alcaraz at the French Open last month — after blowing a 2-1 lead in sets. Zverev also lost in the final of the 2020 US Open against Dominic Thiem — after wasting a two-set lead and a match point.

The German entered Monday having won all nine sets he played at Wimbledon this year and having held in all 41 of his service games — not even facing a single break point since the first round.

The key stat, then, was this: Fritz accumulated four break points and converted two — once in the third set and once in the fifth — while only getting broken once himself.

Fritz hit 15 aces, with zero double-faults, and they combined for 124 winners (69 by Fritz) and 56 unforced errors (23 by Fritz).

He’s now 10-1 on grass in 2024 and is on an eight-match winning streak that includes a title at a tuneup event in Eastbourne the week before Wimbledon began.

“What I enjoy the most on grass,” Fritz said, “is just when you hit a good shot, you’re rewarded for it.

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