American Taylor Fritz did not think he would be able to compete in Tokyo after testing positive for COVID-19 in South Korea. But after a week in full quarantine, the 24-year old finished a whirlwind Wednesday with his first career victory at the Rakuten Japan Open.
The third seed was forced to pull out ahead of the Seoul event last week, but was cleared to make the two-hour flight to Tokyo in the nick of time, the morning of his opening-round match against James Duckworth.
2022 Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships Entry List featuring Ruud, Norrie, Fritz and Kyrgios (Last Update - 30-09)
Fritz capitalized on the opportunity with a 6-2 6-7(2) 6-1 victory to advance to the second round for the first time in four attempts at the ATP 500.
"[I'm feeling] better than I thought I would be," Fritz said in his post-match press conference. "I don't feel amazing, but I'm really happy that I was able to go through all that and still show up and win my match."
The American was too sick to even exercise in his room for much of his quarantine period, but began to work out over the past three days. Still, he maintained a positive mindset entering Japan, where he has an opportunity to improve on his 10th place position in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin.
"I felt, for whatever reason, confident that I was going to be able to come out of lockdown and strike the ball well," said Fritz, who is seeking his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals. "I was more concerned about the cardio and my conditioning after being really sick and not having been able to do anything. Luckily the court was very fast, and so we were not playing long points, so physically I was OK."
2022 Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships Draw with Ruud, Norrie, Fritz, Kyrgios and Tiafoe
Noting his standing in the Race To Turin, the American said he would have been devastated to miss both Seoul and Tokyo with COVID. After the win, he was thankful to still be playing in what he called one of his favorite tournaments.
Fritz will meet Japanese lucky loser Hiroki Miroya in the second round, with their matchup scheduled for Thursday night in the Ariake Colosseum.