I have to admit I kind of missed this guy's rise up the rankings late 2015-early 2016. I don't know what the predictions surrounding him were, but I can imagine a lot of people expected him to be a top 10 player at some point in his career (it still might happen, I really doubt it though, and I don't think he will even get close).
Can his struggles be simply explained by him getting married and having a kid?
I'm kind of annoyed I didn't really see him play too much when he was on that hot streak, so that I could have compared what I've seen in the last 2 weeks to that.
At the moment his play is honestly dreadful and not befitting of somebody who - until quite recently - was an elite prospect. Today he played against Stebe, who hits the ball reasonably hard if given the opportunity, is ultra solid from the baseline otherwise, and is an acceptable athlete for the challenger level. The last part of that assessment is important, because Fritz made him look like Rafael Nadal today, with his complete inability to hit winners (or even force errors) from the baseline. Stebe is rising back up the rankings to once again be a decent tour-level player, but he's not a world beater, and hasn't played nearly enough hard-court matches recently to make anybody trust in him.
Back on the subject of Fritz though, it's easy to spot he is talented and the potential is there, because despite playing so badly, he is able to dispatch inferior opponents. But against anybody of close to equal standing, he looks utterly useless and bereft of ideas.
Why isn't his serve more of a weapon? He has long arms and is tall, but it seems eminently breakable. He pushes his backhand in despite seeming to be able to direct that shot very well. Whilst he does indeed put plenty of topspin on his forehand when trading with an opponent, I don't see him pushing through with that stroke when he has an opportunity to take control. Essentially, his finishing is dreadful, and I don't think he's a good enough athlete, especially at his build, to be a successful grinder at the highest level. His game does not make much sense, and it probably needs to if he's going to get back up past his careee high ranking.
Looking at his results this year, it doesn't look like he's a streaky young player poised to explode back up the rankings. He beats the players I would consider to be worse than him, and loses to the ones who are better, with the odd exception either way. It reminds me of Borna Coric's current predicament, except Fritz is just suffering from it one level below.
Conventional wisdom states that Fritz declined because he got married and had a kid way too young (he doesn't turn 20 until the end of October). I don't deny that the burden of marriage and fatherhood weigh heavily on a 19-year-old, yet I have to wonder if the reason might be something else. In an interview posted on the ATP website, he said that for now the wife & baby are staying home, but once the tyke is a bit older and better able to travel, the family will travel with him to a number of tournaments. Maybe having a wife & child isn't the problem; it's being away from them that troubles young Taylor.
A less psychological possibility is that Fritz was dealing with a wonky knee for much of 2016. He finally shut down his season near the end of the year to do a proper rehab. While his knee got back to 100%, his overall fitness suffered because the knee rehab precluded the heavy training block he wanted to do in the off-season. So he skipped the clay season this year to do the training block, which unfortunately meant that he didn't have the time to practice on court nearly as much as he would have liked.
To me, it looks like Taylor is just lacking confidence. He doesn't seem to be swinging through or finishing his shots like he did in the past. Despite having what I consider to be far worse technique on forehand and backchand, his big junior rival Tommy Paul has been having a great summer on the ATP tour, cracking groundstroke winners all over the place despite some very iffy technique. The big difference is that Tommy is riding a wave of confidence whereas Taylor is totally down on his game and by extension down on himself. Taylor's serve has declined the most out of all aspects of his game. If he ever gets his serve back to what it was and what it should be, that improvement will lift the rest of his game.
19 is far too young to write any player off. Give Taylor some time to adjust to life with and away from his young family and some time to work on his game. The kid has both talent and what seems to be a pretty good head on his shoulders. I see a much brighter future for him.