Tsitsipas edges Fritz, ends U.S. men’s hopes in Australia

Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun/USA TODAY NETWORK

MELBOURNE, Australia – For Taylor Fritz, the difference between reaching the Grand Slam quarterfinals for the first time and missing out again came down to three points in an 3 1/2-hour, five-set loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australian Open.

The 24-year-old Fritz was aiming to put an American man back into the quarterfinals of a major tournament. Tennys Sandgren in 2020 was the last one to do it, reaching the last eight in Australia.

Last year, for the first time since 2015, no American men reached the quarterfinals of a major. And after Maxime Cressy lost in four sets to U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev in the heat, it was all up to Fritz.

The No. 20 seed took the first set off Tsitsipas – last year’s French Open runner-up – and, after dropping the second, again took the lead by clinching the third set with a curling cross-court forehand winner at 10:42 p.m.

That’s where experience made a difference on Rod Laver Arena, the main show court at Melbourne Park. Fritz was playing in the fourth round for the first time in his 22nd Grand Slam event and was 0-5 against top 5 players in the majors.

Tsitsipas had been there before, and had a lot of support in the stands from Melbourne’s large Greek community.

Tsitsipas had rallied from two sets down to beat Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals last year before losing in the semifinals to Medvedev. He went one round deeper at Roland Garros.

So when Fritz gave him a break-point chance in the ninth game of the fifth set, only his second look in the set, Tsitsipas stepped up. Fritz netted a volley to give Tsitsipas the break, and the fourth-seeded Greek finished off a 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory two minutes after midnight to conclude Day 8.

“In the end, I struggled a little bit at finishing off some points I needed to finish off,” Fritz said. “He served very well under pressure, but I can’t give him those breaks that I did.

“The three times I got broken were more just donations from me, and not so much anything he did other than make me play.”

Still, Fritz said he would take a lot of positives out of a tough loss.

“I felt like I played well enough,” he said. “Definitely could have won that match.”

It wasn’t just a feeling, either. The statistics were genuinely close. Tsitsipas hit 53 winners and had 44 unforced errors; Fritz had 52 winners against 37 unforced errors.

And the serve and return percentages were comparable. The big difference was on break-point conversions: Tsitsipas converted three of his five chances, while Fritz was 2 of 15.

On Wednesday, Tsitsipas will play No. 11 Jannik Sinner, who ended Australia’s hopes in the men’s draw with a 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-4 win over Alex de Minaur. Medvedev will continue his bid to become the first man in the Open era to win his second Grand Slam title at the very next major when he takes on No. 9 Felix Auger-Aliassime, who rallied to beat 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic 2-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2, 7-6 (4).

Tsitsipas said it took him a while to work out how to deal with the way Fritz was taking the match to him.

“I knew it was going to get physical. I kept reminding myself, get in there, do the work. Don’t give up. A little bit more patience,” he said. “It was important to have the crowd with me. I feel like they were backing me up when things got tough.

“It was important to have that kind of ambience today, and it paid off at the end.”

Gael Monfils withdraws from French Open with wrist injury

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

PARIS — A thrilling five-set victory took a toll on Gael Monfils, whose withdrawal from the French Open handed No. 6 Holger Rune a walkover to the third round.

The 36-year-old Frenchman said he has a strained left wrist and can’t continue.

He battled Sebastian Baez for nearly four hours on Court Philippe Chatrier before beating the Argentine 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 in a first-round match that ended at 12:18 a.m. local time.

The victory was Monfils’ first at tour level this year, as the veteran was coming back from heel surgery.

“Actually, physically, I’m quite fine. But I had the problem with my wrist that I cannot solve,” he said. “The doctor say was not good to play with that type of injury. Yesterday was actually very risky, and then today definitely say I should stop.”

Monfils reached the semifinals at the French Open in 2008 and made it to the quarterfinals on three other occasions.

Mikael Ymer fined about $40K after default for hitting umpire stand with racket

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

PARIS — Swedish tennis player Mikael Ymer was docked about $40,000 after being disqualified for smashing his racket against the umpire’s chair at a tournament the week before he competed at the French Open.

An ATP Tour spokesman said Ymer forfeited about $10,500 in prize money and 20 rankings he earned for reaching the second round of the Lyon Open. Ymer also was handed an on-site fine of about $29,000.

The spokesman said the ATP Fines Committee will conduct a review of what happened to determine whether any additional penalties are warranted.

The 56th-ranked Ymer, who is 24 and owns a victory over current No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, was defaulted in Lyon for an outburst late in the first set against French teenager Arthur Fils last week.

Ymer was upset that the chair umpire would not check a ball mark after a shot by Fils landed near a line. As the players went to the sideline for the ensuing changeover, Ymer smacked the base of the umpire’s stand with his racket twice – destroying his equipment and damaging the chair.

That led to Ymer’s disqualification, making Fils the winner of the match.

After his 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 loss to 17th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti in the first round at Roland Garros, Ymer was asked whether he wanted to explain why he reacted the way he did in Lyon.

“With all due respect, I think it’s pretty clear from the video what caused it and why I reacted the way I reacted. Not justifying it at all, of course,” Ymer replied. “But for me to sit here and to explain? I think it’s pretty clear what led me to that place. I think that’s pretty clear in the video.”