One month ago, Taylor Fritz was taken off a court at Roland Garros in a wheelchair, destined for surgery on his right knee. On Wednesday, the American advanced to the second round at Wimbledon with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 win against countryman Brandon Nakashima.
“It’s pretty amazing. This win means a lot more to me than a lot of people realise and than a lot of other big matches I had, just because I literally had surgery exactly three weeks ago,” Fritz said.
“To be here and actually feel like I’m moving 100 per cent and playing well and getting a win against a very good player — I think he would have beaten a lot of people in the draw the way he played today — it’s just amazing to see all the hard work I put in.”
On match point of his second-round clash in Paris against Dominik Koepfer, Fritz came down from a forehand and heard a pop in his right knee. It was a double-whammy, as not only did he lose the match in four sets on that point, but he hurt himself.
“I think the worst thing was when I originally did the injury and I tried to stand up. I limped my way to the net to shake hands, then I tried to stand up afterwards to walk off the court and I couldn’t even stand. That’s when I looked at my coaches and I was like, ‘Guys, I can be out for a long time,’” Fritz recalled. “I had never experienced something [like that]. I’ve had tweaks and I’ve had injuries. I’m very loose-jointed, so typically I don’t get injured that easily I feel like. I just looked at my team and was like, ‘Guys, this could be it for a while.’”
Fritz’s doctor told him that if he had to repair his meniscus, it could have meant being out for six to eight months, which would have been a devastating blow for the 23-year-old.
“When I woke up [from the surgery], he said he didn’t actually have to repair it. They were just able to snip it out and the rest of my cartilage, the rest of my meniscus and everything was intact. Not damaged at all. [It] didn’t need any kind of fixing,” Fritz said. “That was when I was like, ‘Wow, I can do all the right things right now and I might be able to play Wimbledon.’”
Fritz did three-and-a-half-hours of physical therapy six times a week at Elite OrthoSport in California and also removed any inflammatory foods from his diet to help with his recovery. That meant no soda or fried foods to help get the swelling in his knee down from the two incisions.
“It was just long days of PT, nothing incredibly tough, just repetitive. But honestly, it wasn’t tough because I was so motivated to come to Wimbledon,” Fritz said. “I’m so stubborn and I told myself I’m playing Wimbledon, I was really determined. Every day when I was doing my three, four hours of PT, I was thinking ‘Wimbledon, Wimbledon, Wimbledon.’ I was never really discouraged.”
Paul Annacone, a member of Fritz’s coaching team alongside David Nainkin, gave credit to his charge for the work he put in to get to this point. The former coach of Roger Federer and Pete Sampras added that Fritz always wanted to be back for the grass-court major.
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“There were a couple of scenarios that could have occurred in surgery and the doctor said he got the scenario that was best case and that he could possibly be able to play,” Annacone told ATPTour.com. “Once that happened we approached every day working smart and hoping he could play. There is always a risk, but you listen to advice and weigh the pros and cons, and sometimes great things happen – sometimes they don’t .
“There are no sure things. I give Taylor credit for some very diligent work with the physio and medical team to get him on court at Wimbledon.”
Now that Fritz is back, he can fully concentrate on his tennis, which was his main concern heading into the tournament. The American will face countryman Steve Johnson in the second round.
“I just did everything possible, because I had this goal set in my mind that I was going to play here,” Fritz said. “It’s awesome to do it.”