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Taylor Fritz of America, in action in  Eastbourne, England, last month, plays Alex de Minaur in the Atlanta Open final Sunday, July 28, 2019.(Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
Taylor Fritz of America, in action in Eastbourne, England, last month, plays Alex de Minaur in the Atlanta Open final Sunday, July 28, 2019.(Gareth Fuller/PA via AP) |Associated Press
Tennis

Atlanta Open Sunday Final: Abrams picks Taylor Fritz vs. Alex de Minaur

Match starts at 5 pm EDT.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

BB&T Atlanta Open

Atlanta, GA

Sunday, July 268, 2019

Men’s Final

Taylor Fritz over Alex de Minaur

It’s come down to Sunday’s Finals, and it’s the #2 seed against the #3 seed. A 20-year-old against a 21-year-old. An Aussie versus an American. And two guys who have been absolutely dominant this week fighting it out to see who goes home with the bucks, the ranking points, and the trophy.

In the early semi, Aussie Alex de Minaur, “The Demon”, did everything he had to do to knock off 7’ American Reilly Opelka. De Minaur returned serve reasonably well, considering the deliveries he had to knock off, but surprisingly, he actually served more effectively than Opelka, winning 93% of the points on his second serve, which I’ve never seen. The Demon also moved like the Road Runner, running down shots and causing havoc when he could, that threw Opelka for a loop. In one sequence, the Demon returned a shot from the deuce court sideline, Opelka volleyed into the open court, and the man from Down Under ran all the way across the court (on a shot that most pros would have conceded), made contact as his feet hit the sideline of the ad court, and threw up a lob OVER the seven footer, which caught Opelka completely by surprise. The big man ran back to retrieve the lob, which landed just tangent to the baseline, and could not handle the shot. That was the kind of competitiveness that the crowd in Atlanta was treated to. At the end, the Demon broke serve once in the third set, and that was all she wrote. The match was predictably somewhat boring, but these guys aren’t paid to entertain (are they?), they’re paid to win, and de Minaur did.

In the later semi, Taylor Fritz had a brain cramp in the second set, but, in my opinion, was never in danger of losing this match against Brit Cam Norrie. The British lefthander posed no threat whatsoever in the first set, and then, inexplicably, Fritz let his guard down and Norrie came roaring back winning a very sloppy second set. The third set was all Fritz, including a particularly humorous moment that most of the crowd missed. Norrie was serving and got called for getting coaching. It appeared that the Brit really didn’t see or hear what his coach was trying to tell him, so when the umpire gave him a warning that his coach was, in fact, coaching from the sideline, Norrie asked the umpire, “…what did he say?” The umpire, no fool, replied, “I’m not going to tell you that!” which was quick thinking on his part. Had the umpire repeated his coach’s instructions, Norrie would have gotten the information, but from the umpire, not his coach! Anyway, aside from that, the third set went by in routine fashion and ended as Fritz, very cautious about moving forward, bunted a forehand volley into the open ad court for a winner, and raised his arms in triumph.

In the finals, I like Fritz to beat de Minaur. I think the match will be very close, very competitive, and if this week is any indication, of high quality. I’d really like to see Fritz learn to come to net and take advantage of his size, his quickness, and his penetrating serves and groundies, but he seems to be doing just fine without any advice from me. The Demon, on the other hand, plays a splendid all-court game, which is a bit of a throwback, and awfully enjoyable to watch. He actually looks like he’s enjoying himself out there, while so many pros make it look like work. The joy is catchy, and this match should be, too. But in a close one, I think Fritz walks away with his second title of the year.

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