Taylor Fritz has warned against placing “crazy expectations” on fellow American Ben Shelton, saying he was “probably hurt” by similar pressure on him when he was younger.
Fritz started the defence of his Indian Wells title with a hard-fought 4-6 6-4 6-3 win over 20-year-old Shelton at the weekend.
Asked about Shelton’s long-term potential after their first meeting on tour, Fritz described him as “really good” but also urged some caution.
“I think it’s a really dangerous thing that people do putting crazy expectations on young American players.
“He’s really talented. He’s super dangerous if he’s playing well, just with the serve and the weapons that he has. You make one mistake on my serve, make one mistake on my serve in the first set and drop it, and the set is over. He’s serving way too well.
“He definitely has a really bright future. He’s got a super explosive game and he has a lot of stuff that he can still – a lot of stuff that he will improve on.”
Asked whether sky-high expectations are just an issue in tennis or across other sports, Fritz added: “It happens in every sport, I think. There is a lot of expectations put on people.
“I just speak to it, because for me, I felt like it was something that I maybe wasn’t ready for when I was 18, 19, and I think I was too young at the time to, I guess, properly deal with it. I think it probably hurt me.
“I see it hurt a lot of young players, because one of the most dangerous things that you can be dealing with in sports is having a lot of expectations and having a lot of pressure. It stops you from sometimes playing and competing as freely as you would like.
“It’s a pretty common thing, though, obviously.”
Fritz made his big breakthrough at Indian Wells last year when he beat Rafael Nadal in the final to claim his first Masters 1000 title.
He is now ranked at No. 5 in the world and is the highest-ranked male American player.
He says he has learnt to deal with pressure and ignore outside noise better than he did when he was younger.
“I think for me what made me a really good player and gave me a lot of success early on when I was 17 or 18 was how aggressive I was and how big I was hitting the ball.
“I could do that because I was free. I was, like, ‘I’m not supposed to beat these guys, I’m the younger guy’. Then all of a sudden I remember thinking this.
“I had some good wins when I was 18. One year later when I was 19, I barely beat a guy that I was supposed to beat.
“I thought to myself, ‘wow, if I had this win one year ago, it would have been the best one of my whole life. We’re only a year now in the future and I’m supposed to win that. It’s bad if I don’t win that match’.
“So I just feel like there was a lot of pressure on me, and it just tightened me up. I wasn’t playing my game as much as I guess should have. I got away from playing what made me good.
“Like I said, some deal with it better than others. I think at the age of 17, 18, 19, maybe you’re not the most well-equipped to deal with that stuff.
“Now it’s different, I’m older and the pressure I feel is just the pressure that I put on myself. I don’t care about what other people are saying and what pressure other people may be putting on me to succeed. That’s kind of just a lesson you need to learn.”
Fritz plays 30th seed Sebastian Baez in the third round on Monday.
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