American males’s tennis is having a little bit of a second.
Whereas the American girls have shined on the principle stage for years, the final Grand Slam winner from america on the lads’s aspect got here again in 2003. That 12 months, Andre Agassi received the Australian Open to begin the season, whereas Andy Roddick secured the U.S. Open to shut out the 12 months.
Might that drought finish in a couple of days?
For the primary time since 2005 three American males are via to the quarterfinals on the U.S. Open. That 12 months it was James Blake, Agassi, and Robby Ginepri who superior, with Agassi ultimately shedding within the Remaining to Roger Federer.
This 12 months a youth motion is underway, with Frances Tiafoe, Ben Shelton, and Taylor Fritz — the top-ranked American on the lads’s aspect — all set to play within the quarterfinals right now. And with Tiafoe and Shelton squaring off, the People are assured to see a minimum of one advance to the semis.
So who’re the three stars hoping to finish that drought, and may one in all them pull it off?
We are able to begin with Fritz, who faces probably the most daunting problem of the three left standing: A date with Novak Djokovic within the quarterfinals. Fritz, who received the 2015 U.S. Open Junior Championship, enters because the top-ranked American on the lads’s aspect. That is simply his second look within the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam occasion, his first coming again at Wimbledon a 12 months in the past.
He has six titles underneath his belt, 5 of which have come because the begin of final season. In a type of occasions, the Masters occasion at Indian Wells final 12 months, he topped Rafael Nadal in straight units to assert the title.
Whereas his greatest efficiency at a Grand Slam occasion this 12 months previous to the U.S. Open was a fourth-round look on the Australian Open, Fritz has a pair of arduous courtroom titles to his credit score this season: Delray Seashore and Atlanta. In all, 4 of his six titles have come on arduous courts.
To make that 5 out of seven, he should get by Djokovic, who he has not crushed in seven tries. His greatest end result towards Djokovic got here again on the 2021 Australian Open, when he pushed him to 5 units within the third spherical. They final met within the quarterfinals in Cincinnati, when Djokovic received in straight units.
“Novak’s gotten me loads, [but] I believe one in all these instances I’m going to get him so I’ll maintain attempting,” Fritz mentioned when interviewed following his fourth-round victory. “Not less than I hope … I’ve bought nothing to lose. So I’m going to go on the market and have enjoyable and play my greatest tennis as a result of I do know once I do, I give myself an opportunity.”
In case you had been scrolling social media on Sunday throughout Shelton’s fourth-round match towards one other American, 14th-ranked Tommy Paul, you most likely noticed numerous tweets like this one:
Shelton ranked not one, however two aces at 149 mph, simply shy of the file of 152 mph set by Roddick. In case you are questioning what that appears like, right here you go:
Even Paul might solely cease and applaud.
In some ways, “Field Workplace Ben” as he’s recognized — as a result of pure leisure he gives throughout matches along with his athleticism, energy, and affinity for taking part in to the group — continues to be studying the sport. Whereas he comes from a tennis household (his father Bryan was knowledgeable and received two ATP occasions earlier than going into teaching, and his mom was a highly-ranked junior participant) Shelton was a multi-sport athlete rising up with a give attention to soccer.
However as center faculty got here round, he gravitated in the direction of tennis, and his enjoying profession took off. He ultimately dedicated to play tennis on the College of Florida for his father, who had taken over the Gators program after 13 years at Georgia Tech, the place he helped ship one nationwide title.
The pair delivered Florida’s first nationwide title again in 2021.
Like Fritz, that is simply Shelton’s second look within the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam occasion, the primary coming on the Australian Open this 12 months.
Whereas his energy, each within the service recreation in addition to within the volley recreation, are his calling card the 6’4 left-hander is studying the way to change issues up. “It’s not about all the time hitting via the man that you just’re enjoying,” Shelton mentioned final week. “I’ve form of discovered being out right here on tour, everybody is basically good at hitting the ball. You hit it arduous, hit it the identical velocity, guys can play they usually can play very well. I believe having some selection and mixing issues up is one thing that’s essential for me and my recreation model.”
He has but to succeed in the semifinals of an occasion, not to mention take dwelling a title. However he can change all that beginning right now.
Standing in his means?
The tenth-ranked participant on this planet, France Tiafoe.
A 12 months in the past in Queens, Tiafoe put collectively a masterful run to the semifinals on the U.S. Open, earlier than shedding to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz in an exciting five-set match that took greater than 4 hours.
However earlier than he departed that evening, he had a message for the group at Flushing Meadows.
He could be again.
“I got here right here desirous to win a U.S. Open and I really feel like I allow you to guys down. This one actually, actually hurts. Too good from Carlos,” mentioned Tiafoe. “I’m going to return again and I’ll win this factor sooner or later.”
Tiafoe is on the cusp of fulfilling that promise.
He has three profession titles to his identify, the primary of which got here at Delray Seashore again in 2018. The opposite two have each come this 12 months, one in Houston on the U.S. Males’s Clay Courtroom Championships, and the opposite on the 2023 BOSS Open in Stuttgart again in June. That victory propelled him into the highest ten within the males’s rankings for the primary time in his profession.
Now standing in the best way of him making good on that promise a 12 months in the past? Shelton, who he considers a pal. The 2 have by no means confronted one another on tour, however in response to Tiafoe, Shelton has been ready for today.
“Ben has wished to play me on the Open for a very long time,” Tiafoe mentioned following his fourth-round win on Sunday. “So he’s going to be tremendous excited. He’s going to return out with a number of vitality.”
How does the 25-year-old Tiafoe plan on pulling out the win?
By being the veteran.
“I’m simply going to should tame him down, attempt to be the vet and get the win. It’s going to be good,” added Tiafoe. “It’s going to be an incredible environment, I believe nice illustration for folks of shade, proper? Two folks of shade enjoying within the quarterfinals, enormous match on Arthur Ashe. It’s a fairly monumental second. I’m fairly excited to compete towards him. Hopefully it’s an incredible battle.”
However can one in all them really break the drought?
On condition that Shelton and Tiafoe are squaring off — and Fritz has the daunting process of taking up Djokovic — it’s doubtless that the very best likelihood for an American win this weekend comes from the Shelton/Tiafoe winner.
Whereas Shelton has proven great energy all event lengthy, Tiafoe has the expertise. Throughout his run to final 12 months’s semis he topped 14th-seeded Diego Schwartzman within the third spherical, Nadal (who was the second seed a 12 months in the past) within the fourth spherical, after which ninth-seeded Andrey Rublev within the quarterfinals.
That’s one heck of a gauntlet.
One which has ready him to satisfy that promise he made a 12 months in the past.