STUTTGART, Germany: Teenager Taylor Fritz earned the chance to face his hero Roger Federer after the American defeated an unranked French qualifier on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) 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.
“I have nothing to lose, there is no pressure on me, I don’t think there will be any nerves.”
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.”
Three of four seeds lost including French number eight Lukas Pouille, beaten 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-4 by Australian John Millman.
Russian Mikhail Youzhny surprised grass-loving Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, the fifth seeded winner of the French Open doubles title, 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.
German Florian Mayer beat Serb sixth seed Viktor Troicki 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) and home seventh seed Philipp Kohlschreiber stopped Pierre-Hughes Herbert of France 6-4, 6-1.
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.
Marcos Baghdatis spent 15 minutes arguing after just two games that the court might have slippery spots, then lost 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 to German Jan-Lennard Struff.
Unseeded Argentine wild card 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,” 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,
“I played for more than one hour, that helps to get ready for the next round.”