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Five decades after moms went head-to-head, Fritz and Holt set for U.S. Open showdown

Indian Wells champion Taylor Fritz of the United States takes on Brandon Holt. EPA-EFE/RAY ACEVEDO

By Ricky Dimon

Taylor Fritz and Brandon Holt will square off in round one of the U.S. Open on Monday evening. It’s an all-American matchup, and one that includes the host nation’s best hope for a title in Fritz.

But it also adds some unique intrigue that no other matchup possesses. Both players’ moms played on the pro tour, themselves, and even went-to-head. Kathy May (Fritz’s mom) and Tracy Austin (Holt’s mom) clashed at the 1978 Philadelphia tournament, with Austin emerging victorious.

Austin is a two-time U.S. Open champion and reached No. 1 in the world. Now she is either in the commentary booth or dealing with nerves in the stands watching her son play.”He did it,” Austin said following Holt’s 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Dimitar Kuzmanov in the final round of qualifying on Friday. “He did it. He handled the moment. He handled the pressure. He won the third time in a row; didn’t have that letdown. These are big wins for him. It’s a lot of time to think in the locker room (during a long rain delay). He basically had an hour and a half and [another] hour and a half to think about the last five points, so you’re just so happy that now he’s in the U.S. Open. I still can’t believe it.”

Holt, a former University of Southern California star, is ranked No. 303 and has never played a main-draw match at the ATP level. Monday will be his first, and he hopes to draw some inspiration from his mom.

“She’s an unbelievable competitor,” the 24-year-old commented. “I think just watching her do day-to-day things, it’s kind of 100 percent or nothing. I’ve never seen her give anything less than 100 percent and it’s always that [way], whether she’s doing things for her family–it seems like her favorite thing to do because she’s always there for us. I think that’s the biggest thing that I’ve learned. Whether it’s in tennis or playing a game of cards, she’s not going to lose. She’ll reach across the table and rip your heart out and then hug you after.”

Photo credit: Alison Joseph/USTA

Holt will need to bring that same kind of intensity to the court, because he is obviously a massive underdog against Fritz. Having won the Indian Wells Masters in addition to a Wimbledon quarterfinal appearance, Fritz has established himself as one of the game’s rising stars and a future–it not even present–Grand Slam title contender. At a career-high ranking of No. 12, the 24-year-old has a chance to break into the top 10 if he advances to week two in New York.

How’s this for incentive? His mom’s best-ever ranking was 10th, so Fritz will be trying to match it or even surpass it. Of course, the first order of business is just trying to get through round one–and in the process getting a sort of revenge for one of his mom’s defeats.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.