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Promising start for Memphis finalist Taylor Fritz

In the span of a week, Taylor Fritz went from a teenage hopeful to a legitimate threat on tour.

Playing in just his third ATP event, Fritz, 18, raced to the Memphis Open final on Sunday, where he eventually fell to No. 7 Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-4.

To put his ascent in perspective, it took world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 24 tournaments before he made his first final and Roger Federer 21 events.

All week in Memphis, Fritz, one of five American teenagers in the draw, showcased his skilled, hard-hitting game, beating fellow American Steve Johnson, Benjamin Becker and Ricardas Berankis until running into Nishikori, who has now secured four straight titles at this event.

A year ago, Fritz was ranked No. 937 on tour. On Monday, he'll be a career-high 103rd.

Shortly after his final match in Memphis, ESPN.com caught up with Fritz:

What were your expectations heading into Memphis?

Fritz: "I really just wanted to win a match, get my first victory. After that first win, I felt the pressure was off me, so I was able to play more freely and make it to the final. Didn't go my way [Sunday], but I am happy with how the week went and how my game came together."

Considering how fast you have progressed, what are your immediate goals moving forward?

Fritz: "I'm just focused on breaking into the top 100. I want to have good enough results to make sure I stay there. I don't want to make predictions beyond that right now. Hopefully, I can keep improving and keep my ranking as high as I can. It was only one tournament. I am happy with my result, but I am going to take it one step at a time from here."

How much do the new crop of top Americans push each other?

Fritz: "Yeah, we push each other a lot. If one of us does something well, the others see that. If one of us can do it, we think, 'Why not the rest of us?' We push each other to achieve as great results as we can and give each other confidence that we can be successful on tour."

What kind of pressure does the long U.S. men's title drought in Grand Slams put on you?

Fritz: "No, it doesn't really put any pressure on me. I am not playing for everyone who wants me to win and end this drought. I am only playing for myself, and it's my own expectations that I am most critical of. I always say, I do this for myself; I want to improve for myself. The only person I feel I can let down is myself. "

What veteran or former players do you consult, and what's their advice? Fritz: "I talk to James Blake and Mardy Fish quite a bit. Mardy worked with me a good amount during the offseason. We agree on a lot of the things I need to work on and what we're trying to achieve moving forward."

What part of your game do you think you need to improve on most?

Fritz: "First priority is to work really hard in the gym and improve my movement. This will help my transition game and get to the net. I also want to improve my serve a lot. I want to get it to the point where I am holding all the time -- to an elite level that will take pressure off the rest of my game."