Tuesday, March 5, 2019 - Taylor Fritz plays Rafael Nadal during the Eisenhower Cup Presented By Masimo at the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 2 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Jared Wickerham/BNP Paribas Open)
One grew up in Orange County, went on to USC and became perhaps the most decorated collegiate player of all time, winning a pair of NCAA singles crowns and four straight NCAA team titles, and closing out his career as a Trojan riding a 72-match win streak.
The other was raised in Rancho Santa Fe, on the outskirts of San Diego, the son of former touring pros. Pegged early on as a can’t-miss prospect, he skipped the college route and was a husband-father-ATP regular before the age of 20.
Both Californians will feel at home on the Indian Wells Tennis Garden cement when they meet for a third time on Friday, just a few hours east of the spot where they first picked up a racquet. Deadlocked at 1-all in FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters, both will be more than motivated to perform in front of friends and family seated courtside.
Taylor Fritz, whose mother, the former Kathy May, cracked the WTA’s Top 10 back in the late ‘70s, boasts the better BNP Paribas Open resume. After all, this is where he’s scored some of the biggest wins of his career. Now 21 and co-coached by Paul Annacone/David Nainkin, Fritz copped his first-ever Top-10 win here in 2017 (then-No. 7-ranked Marin Cilic). Last year, he roared back from a set down to oust bullish Spaniard Fernando Verdasco and reach the Round of 16. He’s currently ranked No. 46.
The former D1 standout Steve Johnson has had some success here, too. In fact, he’s thrice reached the third round in the desert, defeating such players as Kevin Anderson and Ivo Karlovic. But the mustachioed 29-year-old, 3-5 on the year and now ranked No. 38, would like nothing more than to post a breakthrough result at the BNP Paribas Open, beginning with a victory over his countryman.
Fritz and Johnson will see plenty of each other on Friday. They’ll return to the court later in the day to face each other in the doubles draw. Johnson/Dominic Thiem will take on Fritz/Nick Kyrgios on Stadium 3 after a suitable rest.