Taylor Fritz’s title defence at the BNP Paribas Open moved into high gear Monday when the American dropped just three games in a scorching third-round win over Sebastian Baez.
After needing to rally from a set down in Saturday’s opener against countryman Ben Shelton, Fritz dominated the World No. 35 Argentine 6-1, 6-2 to set up a fourth-round meeting with Hungarian veteran Marton Fucsovics.
Defending 1000 points this week, 25-year-old Fritz finds himself at No. 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, having come into the tournament at a career-high No. 5. The California native is acutely aware what’s at stake, but showed no signs of the pressure he is playing under against Baez.
“I’m trying to take it like it’s any other tournament, but I’m reminded that I’m defending the title every, like, hour or so,” Fritz said with a smile. “It’s tough to forget that, but I am trying to take it like how it is.”
Defending Champion @Taylor_Fritz97 flying into the 4th Round
When you are In Attack more than your opponent, and you convert those attacking chances, you win! #InAttack shows the percentage of shots played in attack #ConversionScore calculates the percentage of points won… https://t.co/dOmLN8epU2 pic.twitter.com/p1ldrowJDL
— Tennis Insights (@tennis_insights) March 14, 2023
Fritz said that he was focussed more on the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, hoping to return to the Nitto ATP Finals after making his debut in Turin last year. “We start over at zero, the race, the race is the race. I’m just trying to have good results to put myself in the best position to end the year at the highest spot in the race.
Fritz won the first four games against Baez in a dominant start — though he had to erase a break point in the first game. The fifth seed served for a 6-0 second set but instead served out the win to love on his second attempt.
In the one-hour, 10-minute match, Fritz lost just three points on first serve (21/24) and finished with 19 winners. He broke the Baez serve six times on 12 chances, denying the Argentine his first Top 5 win.
Fucsovics was also off the court quickly, requiring one hour, 18 minutes to move past Molcan 6-4, 6-2. The Hungarian did not face a break point in the match, losing just six total points on serve.
The 31-year-old Fucsovics, who this week is up 11 places to No. 73 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, began the year at the Challenger level, winning the Canberra title. Soon after he pushed Jannik Sinner to five sets in the Australian Open third round but came into Indian Wells on the back of a first-round loss in Dubai qualifying.
Tuesday’s meeting between Fritz and Fucsovics will open the pair’s ATP Head2Head series.