Joel Drucker: Taylor Fritz on the Hunt

Monday, February 13

On The Hunt

The cruel title for this time of the tennis year would be, “while the cat’s away, the mice will play.” The kind way is to view it as nothing more than business as usual. It’s February, that time just after a major but before some of the bigger tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami; and, of course, far, far ahead of the arduous clay court build-up for Roland Garros and rapid-fire one that precedes Wimbledon.

Better yet, call it “The Points Safari.” In the last two weeks, since the end of the Australian Open, there have been WTA events in St. Petersburg (Russia) and Taipei City, ATP events in Montpelier, Quito and Sofia. This week the ATP World Tour has events in Buenos Aires, Memphis and Rotterdam, while the women gather in Doha.

These tournaments have an odd place in the tennis landscape. The quality of play is excellent. The venues are often smaller, giving fans the chance to watch the action up close (Memphis, played at a small, folksy club, offers some of the best viewing you’ll ever want to see). But alas, there is also a sense at these events of time on hold, that while lesser-ranked players seek to gobble up ranking points, the bigger questions await.

So how best to enjoy these tournaments? Take in the ascent of a lesser-known name, be it a potential rising star or a still-skilled veteran. Last year in Memphis, 18-year-old Taylor Fritz made it all the way to the finals, showing off a big serve and plenty of poise. Last week, 36-year-old Victor Estrella Burgos was once again the king of Quito, winning the singles there for the third year in a row. If in the scheme of things, neither of these runs will be discussed even a month from now, in the moment, in between the lines, in the cauldron of competition, they reveal much about tennis: This is a sport where it’s impossible to be a role player.

Coming Up

+ Valentine’s Day: What Love Means in Tennis

+ Tennis MIAs

+ Happy Birthday, Johnny Mac

More articles by Joel Drucker

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