Taylor Fritz departed the French Open in a wheelchair this year but his return to Paris is proving a far happier experience as he reached the Paris Masters quarter-finals after beating Cameron Norrie 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) on Thursday.
The 24-year-old American’s reward for ousting the 14th seeded Briton is a meeting with world number one Novak Djokovic, who beat Fritz in five sets at this year’s Australian Open.
Djokovic will have had mixed feelings about how he got to the Masters last-eight as he came to Paris saying he needed match practice after seven weeks off.
However, his third round opponent, the mercurial Frenchman Gael Monfils, withdrew before their match due to a groin injury he suffered in his three-set win over compatriot Adrian Mannarino on Wednesday.
World number two Daniil Medvedev and world number four Alexander Zverev had to pull out all the stops to reach the last eight.
Medvedev came from a set down to beat Sebastian Korda 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 whilst the man he beat in last year’s final Zverev required 2hrs 46 minutes to overcome Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (7/4), 6-7 (3/7), 6-3.
“I’m really happy with myself, I managed to keep calm,” said US Open champion Medvedev of going a set down.
“In the end physically was tough for both of us. That’s good I guess that I played a three-setter.”
Medvedev will next face French qualifier Gaston Hugo who defeated in-form Carlos Alcaraz of Spain 6-4, 7-5.
Zverev showed great spirit to get over letting two match points slip in the second set and then the Olympic champion saved six break points in the decisive set.
“It was an incredible match,” said Zverev.
“Grigor is playing very high-level tennis and I had to leave everything out there.”
Fritz is on a rich run of form as the season nears its end, the big server reaching the Indian Wells semi-finals and the St Petersburg final last Sunday.
Fritz, who tore his meniscus on the last point of his defeat by Dominik Koepfer at the French Open in June, says his hot run is down to his mentality.
“Definitely just my aggressive mindset, how I’m handling situations,” he said.
“I’m not playing important situations scared and tight. My forehand really has become such a weapon that I can rely on.”
As for the challenge that faces him in the shape of Djokovic, Fritz says this could be his moment.
“I mean, it’s going to be a tough one,” said the American who also lost to Djokovic on clay in Rome on the eve of the French Open.
“You know, third time this year. I felt like the first two this year have been pretty close matches.
“Obviously now I am playing my best tennis, so I think if there was a time, it would be now that I can really push him.”
Casper Ruud sealed the seventh place in the eight-man ATP Finals – the first Norwegian to qualify – when he outclassed American qualifier Marcos Giron 6-2, 6-1 to set up a quarter-final with Zverev.
“It’s been an unbelievable year that will have the perfect end to the season,” said 22-year-old Ruud, who like Zverev has won five titles this year.
Hubert Hurkacz can take the final spot for Turin if he beats unseeded Australian James Duckworth in Friday’s quarter-final.
Were Fritz to go further he will not be facing Koepfer in Paris again as the German’s good run in the Masters came to an end on Thursday.
Koepfer had lived up to the term lucky loser – having got his berth when Jenson Brooksby dropped out on Monday – beating former world number one Andy Murray and then ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.
The left-hander looked as if he would maintain his run when he took the first set against Polish seventh seed Hurkacz.
However, Wimbledon semi-finalist Hurkacz recovered to beat his 27-year-old opponent 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.