Last week I went to watch Taylor Fritz and Delpo play (not each other…successively. Fritz is from the same town as I am and I’ve been trounced every time I set foot on a court with his mom, so I wanted to see how he was playing. That it was Delpotro’s debut after this third left wrist surgery made the trip from Fort Lauderdale worth the effort. I thought I’d better go to their first round matches since I wasn’t sure how long either would last in the tournament.
Taylor was down 5-3 when I arrived (the normal 30 minute drive was almost two hours due to road construction). He was playing fellow American Tim Smyczek. They had last played in a Challenger in California in the fall and Fritz won in straight sets then. This time though Smyczek was too solid and Fritz had a hard time with the transition from a hard week of singles and doubles indoors on slow courts with a heavy ball to the quicker courts in Florida with a lighter ball. He kept smacking his strings but they weren’t the real issue, Fritz was a step slow (he was in a medical time out when I finally got to my seat during the set break) and Smyczek won the big points, holding off multiple break points in the second set while capitalizing on his few. Smyczek struggled on his forehand side when Taylor strung a few shots together, but that didn’t happen enough that night. Smyczek won 63 63.
Juan Martin Delpotro was delightful to watch. He played top 60 player Dennis Kudla and won 61 64. Kudla had a hard time finding the court in the first set. Delpo moved really well I thought, considering his long layoff and hit his forehand well. His serve was big but he sprinkled in quite a few double faults and his backhand let’s say, was a work in progress. He mostly relied on his slice and Kudla didn’t do much to expose it. It was a rare calm evening but Kudla was just struggling.
The tournament was pretty fun, lots of booths and activity on the grounds. It will be interesting to see how these two players go the rest of the year. I see a lot of upside to both, a hills and valleys sort of year.