(Reuters) - Talented teenager Taylor Fritz surpassed Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi and John McEnroe to become the fastest American finalist on the ATP Tour after reaching the title decider in Memphis on Saturday.
Fritz, just 18-years and three months, fought back to beat Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis 2-6 6-3 6-4 on his fifth match point and reach the final of the ATP 250 event in just his third on the men’s tour.
He is the youngest American to reach a tour final since Michael Chang won the 1989 Wembley title at 17. He will face Japanese top seed and world number seven Kei Nishikori, who is coached by Chang, in Sunday’s final.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Fritz said.
”To be here and think that it’s the final is crazy. I‘m really excited that I got to this level and I’ve proven myself that I belong here.
“It’s amazing to have this support. I feel so loved here. It’s the best feeling in the world. I owe a lot to the crowd pumping me up.”
The American who was ranked 694th in the world in October is expected to move inside the top 100 if he can beat the triple defending champion, who edged American Sam Querrey 3-6 6-3 6-3 in the second semi-final.
Nishikori had taken six events to make his first ATP Tour final back in 2006 where he won in Delray Beach, while world number one Novak Djokovic needed 24, second ranked Andy Murray eight and 17-times grand slam champion Roger Federer 21.
Fritz, though, surpassed all of them at just the third attempt, also beating the record of American major winners like Connors (10), Agassi (11), Chang (17) and McEnroe (17).
He used a powerful serve to fight back and claim victory in his contest on the Tennessee hard courts, slamming down 17 aces to unsettle his Lithuanian opponent, who had looked in control early on.
”I honestly felt he was unbeatable in the first set,“ Fritz said. ”He was making me look awful. I didn’t think there was much I could do.
”I tried to change things up in my game. In the second set, I told myself that the way I was serving wasn’t going to cut it. I needed to crank it up a lot. I started hitting my serves five-10 miles per hour faster. That was the biggest difference.
“Once I was holding my serve, it put pressure on him. That’s what allowed me to play my game more and allowed me to win.”
Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O'Brien