Longtime buddies and up to date Laver Cup teammates, Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe will renew their ATP Tour competition in Sunday’s Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships last in Tokyo.
The 24-year-olds have matured in combination as pros after first crossing paths at the junior circuit, with lofty expectancies thrust onto each as hopes for the way forward for American males’s tennis. But each finalists have thrived this season through blocking off out the noise and focussing inwards as an alternative.
For Tiafoe, force has resulted in diamonds of past due at the court docket, with the American profitable 13 consecutive singles tie-breaks, together with one within the Tokyo 2nd spherical. Similarly, the burden of expectation does no longer weigh him down.
“As far as expectations that I have, so to speak, right now… I don’t really feel that way. I just want to win,” he stated in a Tokyo press convention. “I do not truly care about what people suppose I must be doing as a result of I had contemporary good fortune. I’ve been on Tour for seven or 8 years now, and none of that truly strikes me.
“I want to win for me. I’m not trying to achieve anybody else’s goals or [caring] what they think of me. I’m just trying to be the best I can be and enjoy this. It’s been great. The US Open, Laver Cup, to be here now. I’m just having fun with it. I’m confident and I’m just enjoying life, so I’m going to keep doing that.”
Fritz made remarkably an identical feedback after his semi-final victory in opposition to Denis Shapovalov, a win which ensured he’ll make his debut within the Top 10 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings this coming Monday.
“Now with all the pressure coming in from media, American tennis, all this stuff, I don’t really care any more,” Fritz stated. “I think like I ended worrying a very long time in the past.
“I believe when I used to be 18 and I roughly was once the primary one to have some truly excellent effects and do smartly when I used to be tremendous younger, I believe that again then it possibly were given to me a bit bit as a result of I used to be so younger and it simply all got here out of nowhere. I’ve discovered now to simply no longer truly care.
“I think all the pressure that I always feel is pressure that I put on myself, because I expect a lot from myself and I expect to do really well… I think it’s good that I do that because it motivates me and it drives me.”
The Americans’ parallel careers have yielded a deferential competition at the court docket. Fritz leads their ATP Head2Headvert collection 4-1, with wins of their remaining 4 conferences. But he was once fast to show the shut nature of the ones contests, with 3 requiring deciding units and Tiafoe surrendering a 4-0 lead within the last set in their most up-to-date matchup, two months in the past in Montreal.
“It’s at all times very tight after we play every different. We’ve been truly shut buddies for a very long time and it’s a kind of issues the place we’re truly shut buddies however we’re additionally competitors, as smartly. I think like there’s been this ongoing competition between us since we had been most certainly 16 or 17 years outdated.
“It’ll be fun. There’s always tension when we play. It’s going to be a good match.”
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Tiafoe was once the primary of the 2 to guide his last position, courtesy of a 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 win in opposition to Soonwoo Kwon. He made no secret of his rooting pastime in Saturday’s 2nd semi.
“Playing Taylor would be great,” he stated. “We simply received the Laver Cup in combination, so we’re clearly — even sooner than that — excellent buddies. But the bond will get even tighter, doing one thing that’s by no means came about in tennis.
“I really like that man. I’m satisfied to look what he’s been ready to do, with him having COVID and all that during Korea… It is going to turn what a competitor he’s, That’s what would make it so tricky. He’s a really perfect competitor, he serves smartly, he has an enormous forehand, and he’s assured and getting higher, too. I am hoping I finally end up taking part in him. I believe it’s going to be excellent.
“Let the best man win.”
Tiafoe is looking for his 2nd ATP Tour identify (2018 Delray Beach) in his 5th last, together with a run to the Estoril identify fit in May. Fritz will bid for his fourth tour-level crown and his 3rd of 2022 following triumphs in Indian Wells and Eastbourne.
The all-American last would be the first in Tokyo since Pete Sampras defeated Richey Reneberg in 1996, in what was once the fourth immediately all-U.S. last on the tournament. By profitable his 3rd Tokyo identify, Sampras finished a five-year run of American champions that still incorporated two triumphs for Jim Courier.
The winner of Sunday’s marquee matchup may even sign up for the whole thing of the Big Four — Roger Federer (2006), Rafael Nadal (2010), Andy Murray (2011) and Novak Djokovic (2019) — amongst Tokyo’s honour roll of champions.