The early rounds are finishing up at the U.S Men’s Clay Court Championships with the fourth day of action taking place and my feature match from that day sees two Americans do battle with seventh seed Ryan Harrison and Taylor Fritz set to face off for a spot in the quarterfinals. The favourite to progress is Harrison but the margin is incredibly tight so it is very hard to make a prediction.
Ryan Harrison had a good start to the year but has been having a really bad run of form in recent times. After the Australian Open, he played the inaugural New York Open and he was accused of making racially offensive comments in his first round and that may have distracted him mentally as he went down in the second round to Ivo Karlovic. He lost his next match, which was the first round of Delray Beach, to Reilly Opelka before getting some wins in Acapulco to reach the quarterfinals where he lost to Alexander Zverev. He went winless throughout the sunshine double as he went out of the BNP Paribas Open to Federico Delbonis in the first round and then he lost Joao Sousa in the first round of the Miami Open. He did get a good win over Ruben Bemelmans in Davis Cup last week to help the USA get a win over Belgium and then was strong in his opening round here to move past qualifier Miomir Kecmanovic 6-4, 6-3 to set up this match. This has been quite a good year thus far for Taylor Fritz as he has played a variety of challenger events and ATP Tour events with good success at both. After his Australian swing, he played two challengers and he secured the title at one of them in Newport Beach with a win over Reilly Opelka in the quarterfinals. He played his first ATP main draw match of the year at Delray Beach and made a good run to the quarterfinals before going out to fellow rising star Denis Shapovalov. He played another challenger in Indian Wells before the sunshine double and he reached the semifinals there before going out to Darian King. He had a fantastic run to the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open before falling in a tight three-set match to Borna Coric. It was a bit of a let down at the Miami Open as he went down to Pierre Hugues-Herbert in the first round but shook that loss of for his opening match here in which he saved two match points to overcome countryman Tim Smyczek 6-7(3-7), 6-2, 7-6(8-6). The edge in terms of confidence has to go to the unseeded Fritz because he was got the bigger results and has been racking more wins in recent weeks.
Ryan Harrison has made Houston a regular stop throughout his year with this being his eighth appearance at the event but he has not had the best outcomes with his average result being the first round. His most successful year at the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships was 2012 when he managed to reach the quarterfinals before Michael Russell defeated him in three sets. His worst result has the been the first round of qualifying and he has lost at that stage twice, first in 2010 to Andrey Kuznetsov and then more recently in 2015 to Thiago Monteiro. The long history of Harrison at this event is in contrast to Taylor Fritz, who making his event debut this year. The edge in terms of how comfortable they feel here has to go to Harrison because he has played here so many times and it does not matter his results haven’t been the best because Fritz had never stepped foot on these courts before this year.
Head to Head Record
Ryan Harrison and Taylor Fritz have never faced each other in an official ATP main draw match, but they have played in qualifying and challenger events with Harrison taking the two matches they have played.
I think this will be a very odd match because Taylor Fritz will have the match on his racquet and that means an unusual scoreline could come about because he is erratic and he could be feeling some fatigue after his marathon first-round match. I think at the beginning he will come out feeling fresh and be able to really feed off the crowd, which should be present for an all American match. I think that will see Fritz come up with a flurry of hot shots and Ryan Harrison will have his poor movement exposed on the way to being swept off the court 6-1 in the opener. I think the second will be a very different set from the start as Fritz might lose some focus after a comfortable opener and I think that Harrison with his consistent shots will start to break him down and the seventh seed will be benefitting from an abundance of errors to take the 0-6 set. I see the decider following the pattern of the earlier sets with Fritz managing to turn it back on and get some energy back up and when he turns it on, Harrison does not have much of a chance due to his lack of weapons which could create a similar situation to the first set.