INDIAN WELLS — Taylor Fritz defeated fellow 20-year-old Andrey Rublev 6-4, 7-6 (4) on Saturday, advancing to the third round in Indian Wells for the second year in a row.
This is only the latest step in Fritz's recent return to form: The world No. 74 risen in the rankings 30 spots since 2018 began, mostly by going deep into tournaments at the ATP Challenger level.
But Rublev is already a step above the Challenger circuit. He's the second-highest-ranked player Fritz has faced all year, and was seeded No. 27 in the desert.
Fritz said what won him the match was his serving and returning on high-pressure points. Thanks to the slow courts and heavy weather on Saturday, he had just a little extra time to step and lean into Rublev's second serves, which proved particularly useful on the backhand side.
"It was kind of overcast today," Fritz said. "I didn't feel like the ball was moving as much as it does a lot of days. So I felt like I was able to get onto his serve more than I maybe would have on a faster, quicker day."
The converse side of that was he needed to serve particularly well to get out of trouble.
"It made it even more important for me to make sure I hit my spots on my serve," Fritz added. "I think at some important moments in the match it really made the difference, me hitting my spot on the serve or hitting an ace to get me out of pressure."
Fritz's third-round opponent will be Fernando Verdasco, who upset No. 3 seed Grigor Dimitrov in three sets.