STUTTGART: Teenager Taylor Fritz earned the chance to face his hero Roger Federer after the American defeated an unranked French qualifier on Tuesday to reach the second round in Stuttgart.
Federer will be playing his first match in nearly a month after recovering from back pain and skipping the French Open, as he ramps up his preparations for Wimbledon.
Number 65 Fritz has had time on court with the Swiss legend — a Wimbledon training session a year ago — but booked his place into the match of his life with a 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-1 win over Fabrice Martin on the grass at the Weissenhof Club.
Fritz, 18, said he will not worry with nerves when he faces one of the best players on the planet.
The teenager said he had watched and admired Federer as a boy aged 11.
“I never thought then that I’d be playing Federer in singles and teaming with (Juan Martin) Del Potro in doubles (this week).
“I cannot remember the first time I heard the name of Federer or saw him on TV. But it’s amazing to play him in the next round.
“I grew up in the generation when he was just dominating everyone. It’s crazy to be stepping onto the court with him, I never thought that would happen.”
Unseeded Argentine wildcard Del Potro posted a victory over Grigor Dimitrov, with the 6-4, 6-2 result marking the fourth straight first-round loss for the one-time Bulgarian phenomenon.
“I’m surprised with my level,” said Del Potro, who is working his way back after a wrist injury and sealed the win with an ace.
“I didn’t expect to play that well. Now I have another chance to get a few more matches. I’m just glad to be playing tennis again.
“I have the chance to make a start in the grass court season for the first time in a long time. My body responded well to this match.”
The former world number four next plays Australian John Millman, who beat French eighth seed Lukas Pouille 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-4.
Czech qualifier Radek Stepanek, still going strong at age 37, booked into the second round as he beat Denis Istomin 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. Viktor Troicki became the first seed to exit, to German Florian Mayer 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).
American Denis Kudla beat Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 6-0, 6-2.