By HOWARD FENDRICH
The Associated Press
WIMBLEDON, England — Taylor Fritz left the court in a wheelchair after his French Open loss less than a month ago. Days later, he had surgery on his right knee.
And now, not only is the 23-year-old Californian already back in Grand Slam action, he’s made his way into Wimbledon’s third round.
“I’m positive this is the quickest anyone has ever returned to, like, actual professional competition from this surgery — definitely any sport that requires direction changes. Maybe someone has done it in golf,” Fritz said Thursday after edging Steve Johnson 6-4, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-7 (4), 6-4 in an all-U.S. matchup at the All England Club that lasted more than 3 1/2 hours. “But this is definitely the fastest someone has come back from this.”
Wearing a black sleeve that covered his right leg, Fritz hit 24 aces and accumulated 58 winners to 32 unforced errors.
He is seeded No. 31 and is one of seven men in the bottom half of the bracket who are making their debut in the third round at Wimbledon.
Quite a quick turnaround from that June 3 exit at Roland Garros.
“I tried to stand up. I couldn’t stand. I looked at my team, and I said, ‘Guys, I could be done for a long time.’ Because I have never had anything that felt like that. I heard it pop, you know? I heard it go,” Fritz recalled. “So I was obviously really down, expecting something bad from the MRIs.”
He said he was told to expect a four-to-six-week recovery. Thursday, he said, was Day 23 since the operation.
So that would make Saturday — when he’ll face 2020 U.S. Open runner-up Alexander Zverev for a berth in Week 2 — Day 25.
“Whatever happens, happens,” Fritz said. “I have already done more than I think myself or anyone else expected, taking everything into account. I just played nine sets in the last 26 hours, three weeks out of knee surgery.”
Zverev, who is the No. 4 seed, has won two of their previous three matchups, including a five-setter in Wimbledon’s second round in 2018.
“I’m very surprised that he’s actually playing here, and I’m very surprised how well he’s playing,” Zverev said after beating another U.S. player, Tennys Sandgren, in straight sets Thursday. “I have to give credit to him for coming back this quickly.”
Win, lose or draw
Ash Barty is seeded No. 1 at Wimbledon, where she’s never been past the fourth round.
She is coming off a hip injury that forced her to stop playing at the French Open. And her serve was a real issue in a second-round victory Thursday at the All England Club.
So she figures she has plenty to worry about, rather than keeping an eye on the bracket and what’s happening with other players in a tournament now missing six of the top 10 women’s seeds.
“Speculating now is a waste of time. It’s certainly not something that I’m going to do, is be looking at the draw,” Barty said. “I never have, I never will.”
by your standards? I dont know. its not the most important to feel your absolute best in the first and second round. what you dont want to do is go out. … Really happy with my level right now. … Its been a difficult year and a half in many ways.
Murray has company
Cameron Norrie’s victory Thursday allowed him to join two-time champion Andy Murray and Dan Evans in the third round at the All England Club, the first time a trio of British men made it that far since in 22 years.
“It’s obviously unbelievable,” the 29th-seeded Norrie said, “to have three British guys in the third round.”
He beat Alex Bolt 6-3, 6-1, 6-2, and now comes a tougher task: A match against eight-time champion Roger Federer for a spot in the fourth round.
“I hope the crowd’s going to get into it, regardless of who they cheer for. I understand if it’s for him. If it’s for me, it’s because of the last 20 years and all the big matches I’ve played here,” Federer said after improving his head-to-head record against Richard Gasquet to 19-2 with a straight-set win Thursday.
“He has had a wonderful year. I know it is going to be a tough match,” Federer said about Norrie. “I’m happy for him it’s going well, but enough now. He needs to go out. I need to go through.”
That matchup is Saturday. Today, Murray plays No. 10 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada, and Evans meets 20-year-old Sebastian Korda of the U.S. — both on Centre Court
As for the last time there were three men from the host country to get this far? Tim Henman lost in the 1999 semifinals to eventual champion Pete Sampras, Greg Rusedski lost in the fourth round to Mark Philippoussis, and Danny Sapsford lost in the third to Sampras.