Currently ranked 46 in the world among pro men’s tennis players, Taylor Fritz’s straight-sets singles loss Friday to Southern California’s Steve Johnson (6-3, 6-3) at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells wasn’t much more than a blip in sports headlines.
But Fritz’s pairing with Australia’s mercurial Nick Kyrgios in the prestigious event’s doubles competition has captured the tennis world’s attention–and imagination.
The two are set to play Sunday night in the Round of 16 against the sixth-seeded doubles team of Marcelo Melo (Brazil) and Łukasz Kubot (Poland)–doubles specialists with a solid history of winning.
But there will be no shortage of media and fan attention on the Rancho Santa Fe-raised Fritz and his unlikely Australian partner.
Kyrgios, 23, who some view as having the greatest raw talent of any young player on the ATP tour, can frustrate fans with on-court antics that include tanking against lower-ranked players. Despite winning the Abierto Mexicano Telcel March 2 in Acapulco, Kyrgios lost in his second-round singles match at Indian Wells to Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-4, 6-4. At one point in the contest, Kyrgios smashed his racquet and threw his shoes into the crowd.
All the more surprising that he and Fritz paired up for doubles in the desert. Married with a young child, Fritz shies from the spotlight. Kyrgios, not so much.
Social media blew up Friday when the Aussie joked with Fritz during their Round of 32 doubles match against Steve Johnson and Austria’s Dominic Thiem.
“I’m returning like I’m Novak!” Kyrgios was overheard saying during a changeover, bringing a chuckle from Fritz, who is typically all business on court.
“I’m returning like I’m Novak” 😂
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) March 9, 2019
Kyrgios was referencing World Number 1 Novak Djokovic, who is considered the greatest returner in tennis.
Kyrgios is known to excel on the doubles court, where his demeanor is more relaxed–and sometimes more playful.
All the more reason fans will crowd and camera’s will point when San Diego’s Native Son and Australia’s notorious bad boy are scheduled to play Sunday at 7:10 p.m.
If you can’t catch the action, there will be no shortage of commentary on social media …
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