Taylor Fritz Knows Winning Can Help Grow Tennis in U.S.

Taylor Fritz is well aware of the situation, and, more importantly, the pressure it carries.

The 25-year-old from California is the top-ranked American men’s tennis player in the world—currently No. 9 after helping guide Team USA to victory in the inaugural United Cup—and is coming off his best season, which included a quarterfinal appearance at Wimbledon and snapping Rafael Nadal’s 20-match win streak en route to the 2022 ATP Masters 1000 Indian Wells title to become the event’s first American champion since Andre Agassi in 2001.

“It’s a pretty common question that there’s all this pressure on me because I’m the No. 1 American but I just really need to manage how much pressure I’m putting on myself,” Fritz says. “It’s really all coming from me and what I expect. It’s going to be something I have to stay on top of and not put crazy amounts of pressure on myself especially when it comes to these big events like the U.S. Open and the (Grand) Slams. 

“I can be very hard on myself and expect a lot, but I want to have a really good year and I’m going to be taking it one match at a time and stay confident and stay positive.”

Not only does Fritz’s status as top American come with the pressure to succeed on behalf of an entire nation, but there will be more eyeballs on the 2016 ATP Newcomer of the Year than ever before.

Fritz is one of tennis’ up-and-coming stars appearing in the new Netflix docuseries Break Point, which premieres January 13.

The series’ first five episodes chronicling Melbourne Park, Indian Wells, Madrid and Roland Garros will be available starting Friday before the second installment looking at Wimbledon, Eastbourne, Queens Club, U.S. Open, WTA Finals and ATP Finals arrives in June.

“I’m super excited for what it could potentially do for the popularity of the sport and growing the sport,” Fritz says. “I’m super happy with what we were able to capture on camera—it was the best year so far of my career. I felt like Indian Wells, specifically, was one of the best weeks of my life. It was one of my dreams to win that event and to be able to do that having the crew following along throughout the year and documenting everything that happened for me, I think it couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Break Point is produced by Box to Box Films, the Emmy-winning production company that struck gold with Formula 1: Drive to Survive, which helped catapult the international open-wheel racing series to new heights, especially in the United States.

Other sports organizations quickly sought to replicate that formula to help drive interest in their respective sports and leagues as Box to Box began working with the ATP and WTA on Break Point, the PGA Tour on Full Swing, which debuts February 15 on Netflix, and World Surf League to produce original unscripted and scripted projects. Box to Box is also behind Showtime’s The Kings (2021) and Amazon’s Make Us Dream (2018).

Featuring Grand Slam champions Iga Swiatek and Sloane Stephens, Grand Slam runners-up Nick Kyrgios, Casper Ruud, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini and Ons Jabeur as well as Frances Tiafoe, Ajla Tomljanovic and Felix Auger-Aliassime, Break Point hopes to introduce more viewers to the wide world of tennis.

“At the very least, the absolute minimum, it (tennis) will become more popular from the show, but the question is how much?” Fritz says. “I, myself, have absolutely no idea what to expect if the show’s going to be massive or how big it’s going to be and how much it’s going to change my life or everyone else’s from the show or how much it’s going to affect tennis.

“It will help for sure and that’s exciting because there will be a lot of new fans coming to tennis and that will be something that’s positive for the sport to attract a new audience, but I don’t think any of us can really even know what to expect until it actually comes out.”

More than 22.6 million people in the U.S. played tennis in 2021, up 4.5% from the prior year, according to the Physical Activity Council. Per Nielsen SportsDNA, the U.S. accounts for just over 12% of the global tennis fan base, which was at 641 million in 2018.

Sports documentaries aside, Fritz hopes he can make big strides stemming from a successful 2022 campaign. He says his goals this year, which begins with the Australian Open (January 16-29), are to break into the top-5 and play himself into the finals and compete for a Grand Slam title.

That success, especially over a number of years, will also determine how much he can help grow the popularity of tennis in the United States.

“If I want to grow the sport in the United States, then I need to be better. I need to win a Grand Slam. I need to do something big because we’re very used to in the United States having, I guess, the best in every sport,” he says. “I think people are going to want to watch and care if we have someone who’s at the very top. I think that’s what someone like Serena (Williams) did for so long and brought so much attention to the sport and there’s so many people who play because of her and are inspired because of her. 

“That’s the greatest player of all-time, so hopefully on the men’s side, I can become like a top, top player and win Grand Slams and bring that attention back onto tennis. I do feel like it’s very correlated between how much effect I can have on growing the sport in conjunction with my results in general. It’s definitely related.”

NOTE: First appeared on Forbes SportsMoney


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