Taylor Fritz competes as the top American men’s tennis player at the Citi Open

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Taylor Fritz arrives at the Citi Open in the most eventful year of his burgeoning career.

A native of Rancho Santa Fe, California, he defeated Rafael Nadal in straight sets at the finals in Indian Wells in March to capture his first Masters 1000 title. He also reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, fell to Nadal in a tie break in the fifth set.

A tournament win and a narrow Grand Slam loss to arguably the greatest player of all time are reportedly tremendous results for a 24-year-old American with just two ATP titles under his belt. Since Andy Roddick was the last American to win a Grand Slam in 2003, it’s become something of a cliche question on the tour: Do you think great young Americans on tour will help grow tennis in the United States?

But when Fritz, the most senior of these young Americans, ranked 13th in the world, encountered a version of that question during his first day of practice at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center, he deviated from the standard answer: He just wants to win.

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“I mean, maybe,” said Fritz, who opens Wednesday’s game against Alexei Popyrin. “But for me it’s a big thing for sure, more for the personal goal. I’ve wanted to be a top 10 player my whole life, you know? So I think it’s definitely more personal goals.”

Fritz is aware of the increased attention his success is bringing to US tennis. In his words, American sports fans are used to being “the best at everything,” so his quest to make the top 10 and win a Grand Slam will help draw Americans into the sport, just like the Williams Sisters and other great players have done it on the women’s side for years. His quarterfinal loss to Nadal at Wimbledon was a prime example.

“So many people who aren’t tennis fans saw that, and they saw an American that they probably never heard of playing Nadal, that they’ve heard of,” he said. “This is the kind of match that will win a lot of fans in the USA”

But no matter how much that match affected the landscape of American tennis, it didn’t change the fact that Fritz was devastated after his loss. As he left the pitch at the All England Club, his eyes didn’t sparkle with patriotism, nor did they check Twitter to see the level of engagement Live Updates the received competition.

He had just lost a winnable match to an all-time great and missed a chance for his first career Grand Slam semifinal.

“If I quit now, I’d be pretty mad at my career,” he said. “I still have a lot of improvements to make and I feel like I’m going to get a lot better as a player.”

It’s one of the reasons Fritz wanted to play at the Citi Open despite an injury – a stress fracture in his left foot, sustained during the French Open, which affected him during his run at Wimbledon. He knows that the more successful he is at tennis, the higher his ranking will rise.

Fritz, like his compatriots in the top 50, knows that wins draw attention to the sport. But attention is not their motive – size is. These young Americans—Fritz, Reilly Opelka, Tommy Paul, Frances Tiafoe, and others—are friends with each other, but when they play each other, they are fiercely competitive.

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Your mission isn’t to be the best American – it’s to be the best. For Fritz, “highest-ranking American” seems like a contestant’s trophy. It was certainly hard-fought, but jumping into the top 10 and winning a Grand Slam tournament are bigger prizes, and you’ve got more to beat than Americans in those ways.

“I don’t feed on how many [Americans] We’re in the top 50 – it’s an individual international sport,” said Opelka. “I mean, it’s nice to have them around just to hang out with them… [but] they don’t push me more than [Daniil Medvedev] or [Stefanos Tsitsipas] or one of these guys. It is the same.”

While Fritz doesn’t aim to be the savior of US tennis, he does make himself more approachable. He streams himself playing video games like Apex Legends and Fall Guys on Twitch to connect with his fan base. He tweeted at SportsCenter in 2019, calling out ESPN’s highlight show for lack of tennis literacy in order to give Americans a better knowledge of the sport.

He also agreed to appear in it a new Netflix series This follows a year in the lives of the ATP and WTA’s most prominent players, similar to the smash hit “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” which helped grow the circuit’s fan base across the United States and endeared the drivers to a spectator audience .

“These cameras are on me all the time. I might even come across as cocky, but it’s in a very joking way,” Fritz said of the experience. “And I really didn’t hold anything back in front of the camera. I try to be myself as much as possible.”

But for Fritz, TV cameras, tweets and Twitch streams take a back seat when it comes time to be a tennis player. All the dedication in the world isn’t going to put him in the top 10 or give him a Grand Slam title. Only his hard work and drive can do that.

Fritz’ previous career is not enough for him. He wants to be the best and if American tennis comes with him, so be it.

“As a kid, I would have thought that was crazy, so it’s really cool when you step back and think about it,” he mused. “But I have so much more to do.”

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