Photo: Daniel Puckett/Getty Images
It’s been nearly 20 years since an American tennis player won a major (Andy Roddick at the US Open in 2003) — an unimaginable gap for those who witnessed Sampras-Agassi’s glory days in the 1990s, let alone much of the United States. the heroes who preceded them. Fans hungry for American talent have had a lot to savor in the women’s game over the past two decades, Serena Williams first and foremost. But on the men’s side, they often had to content themselves with watching big-serving John Isner make it to the quarter-finals before losing in four sets 7-6.
This is changing – and fast. The two most famous young American tennis players, Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz, lost in the third round of the Australian Open this year. (Potential lesson for Fritz: Don’t take part in a Netflix docuseries.) But the fact that six American men remain on the field speaks to the depth of talent that has emerged in the United States over the past few years. There are now 13 Americans in the top 100, and only one of them is Eisner.
The domestic boom coincides with a new era for the men’s game. After many years of near-total dominance by three players – and many years of predictions that were about to change – it seems the men’s game is finally beginning to unravel. Roger Federer has retired, Rafael Nadal looks more vulnerable than he has in some 17 years, and Novak Djokovic… well, he’s still pretty good. Djokovic remains the favorite to win in Australia this year, although a hamstring injury could make him unbeatable. But with world number one Carlos Alcaraz injured and a series of major upsets over the first few days, the rest of the draw can be claimed by anyone, and the Americans benefit.
So who are the six American men left in the hunt for the Australian Open? Before Round 3 ends on Saturday, here’s a brief guide:
In perhaps the most promising crop of American men left in Melbourne – and perhaps the most promising young American tenure – Korda, 22, dismantled No. 7 seed and 2022 finalist Daniil Medvedev in straight sets on Friday to reach the fourth round, or round of 16. (He’s the only American to do so so far, though a pair of American matches on the other side of the draw ensures that at least two others will join him.)
Currently the world’s No. 31 player, Korda has reached the fourth round of the French Open in 2021 and Wimbledon in 2021. He looked set for an upcoming breakout tournament: At a warm-up tournament in Adelaide, he pulled it off. to the finals and earned a match point against Djokovic. He couldn’t turn around against the irresistible Serb – whose game he praised before and after the match – but Korda’s win over Medvedev may be the confidence boost he needs for a deep tour of Melbourne. He has attained some pedigree in this department; his father is Peter Kordathe scissor-kicking Czech who won the 1998 Australian Open.
The 20-year-old turned pro less than a year ago after winning the men’s singles college championship at the University of Florida. (Shelton, like Korda, has tennis in the blood: His father, who coached him in Florida, was among the top 100 players in the ’90s.) American League winners haven’t had an impressive record of success in the major leagues in recent decades, but Shelton may be an exception. . Last year, he won three ATP Challenger titles, beat Casper Rudd in the ATP Final, and reached world No. 81, which is good enough to qualify for the Australian Open. A measure of Shelton’s newness on the scene: He wasn’t out of the country until last week.
In the first round, he knocked out another promising talent, China’s Xizhen Zhang, in five sets. Thanks to Fritz’s loss, he had a huge win in his third-round match against Australian Alexei Popyrin in the qualifiers.
The 25-year-old was one of the hottest rookies in the mid-2010s, winning the 2015 French Open title (over Taylor Fritz). For years, his career faltered amid a series of injuries. But Paul has turned things around since hiring a new coach in 2019 who has helped him focus on his fitness and deliver on at least some of his early promise. Last year, Paul beat Alcaraz and Nadal and reached the last 16 at Wimbledon. It is now No. 35 in the world. As Kaira Conner wrote for New York Last fall, Paul’s speed and heavy baseline game were his calling cards. Both will need to work in order to win their third round match against another American…
Brooksby, 20, is the rare highly rated professional with his own distinct style of tennis. His weak serve looks like something you’d see at your local tennis club; He lacks any dominant groundstrokes. However, Brooksby constantly confuses opponents by recovering almost every ball and being ready to hit any shot (drop shot, odd backhand) at any time – classic tennis’ annoying but also tough opponent.
Brooksby won the USTA Under-18 Championship in 2018, and since then, has moved up the pro ranks, reaching the fourth round of the US Open and world number 39. This week, he picked up the biggest win of his career, eliminating the third seed at the US Open Road Championships. He showed some real mental toughness after squandering an opportunity to beat the Norwegian in straight sets, then came back strong and finished it off in the fourth set.
The guy best known for his purée had an excellent 12 months. The 22-year-old Wolfe, who was a top-ranking collegiate player at Ohio State, reached the third round at the 2020 US Open that was curtailed due to Covid, then had a hernia operation in 2021 that sidelined him for most of the year. But he came back with some impressive results last year, including wins over top players Holger Rohn and Denis Shapovalov and advancing to the third round of the US Open which included surprise Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut. Although he wasn’t at the top of the list of prospects, Wolfe has a huge serve and fearsome forehand – enough weapons to make a name for himself. Wolfe faces another American in the third round…
Who is Mmah? Even somewhat connected tennis fans are asking the same question this week. Mmoh, 25, isn’t that Mysterious — he won a USTA Under-18 title in 2016 and played in several majors, reaching the second round in Australia twice before — but he’s currently ranked 107th in the world, holds a career pro record of 14-27, and hasn’t been on Many people’s radar. Moh didn’t even qualify for this year’s edition but made the cut as a “lucky loser” when Belgium’s David Goffin withdrew. After knocking out world number 13 Alexander Zverev in the second round, which was by far the biggest win of his career, Moh managed to win as much as any lucky loser before him. If he defeats Wolf on Saturday, he will break the record. That would be fitting because at this year’s Australian Open, it’s almost as if anything is off the table.