Ninth seed Taylor Fritz won't have made many friends at the French Open on Thursday after shushing the crowd during his second-round win over Arthur Rinderknech.
One of the last Frenchmen remaining in the draw was ousted despite going a set up on Fritz, with the Wimbledon quarter-finalist coming back to triumph 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. Boos and jeers against Fritz could be heard throughout the clash, but he really angered the locals by putting his finger to his lips once the comeback was complete.
“The crowd was just so great that I had to let it fire me up," said the American tennis star in his on-court interview after the match. "They cheered so well for me, I wanted to make sure I won. Thanks guys.”
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While it may not be considered the usual etiquette for the tennis court, seven-time Grand Slam singles champion John McEnroe was a major fan of the move. In fact, as one who's found himself on the receiving end of some fan disdain down the years, he felt it may have even helped Fritz on his way to victory.
"I can relate to fans being against me, so respect for Taylor. I love that," McEnroe told Eurosport. "[An unfriendly crowd] can be extremely intimidating, but it also can be very inspiring. You can use that negative fuel to your advantage.
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"I’ve got to hand it to Fritz, he’s done an incredible job getting himself in tip-top shape, he’s one of the best ball strikers that you’ll see on a tennis court, and he battles. He’s got some personality. I’ve been saying this for 50 years, but you play one-on-one against someone, you need that intensity."
The boos at Roland Garros rang out so loudly that Fritz could barely be heard in his post-match interview. And still, last year's Indian Wells-winner responded with more taunting and even blew kisses to his very vocal critics.
Media outlets described the Californian as 'villain' following the display on Court Suzanne Lenglen, with Fritz emerging as the kind of personality people love to hate. His competitive character received more attention as one of the prominent characters on Netflix series 'Break Point', though results are often required to back up such boisterousness.
There was at least a strong contingent of American fans present to (slightly) counteract any negativity from the French in attendance.
“I think Taylor rose to the occasion," McEnroe continued. "He’s a better player than Rinderknech in my opinion, I don’t think it’s a huge upset that he won that match. But I like to see a little confrontation, a la [Daniil] Medvedev a couple of years ago at the [U.S.] Open."
It's perhaps just as well there are no more French talents left in the men's draw, lessesening Fritz's chances of antagonising the home fans. The No. 9 seed will face Argentina's Francisco Cerundolo in the third round on Saturday, where a win would see him record a new career-best finish at the French Open.
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