W17-year-old Michael Chang won the French Open in 1989, and it was a huge event for American tennis. Not only was it the story of a teenager coming from seemingly nowhere to win the Grand Slam, it also marked the end of a nearly five-year drought for the US men’s slam champions. After all, there’s never before been more than four consecutive calendar years in the entire history of the sport when an American hasn’t won one of the four championships.
Zhang’s victory heralded a golden age for American men’s tennis. He was joined by Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier. Collectively, the group won a total of 27 Grand Slam titles (with 14 Sampras titles) over a 15-year period, from Chang’s victory in Paris to Agassi’s last Grand Slam, at the 2003 Australian Open.
And things looked fine for the next generation of American men after that Andy Roddick, who was only 21 years old, won the US Open later in 2003. Given the future of American tennis since he was a teenager, it seems Roddick has made good on his promise. Most thought his deadly serve would help him in a few majors on the fast surfaces before his career was over.
But this never happened. While Roddick had a Hall of Fame inductee that included finishing the season as a #1 at the end of the year, he had the misfortune of playing in the same era as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Roddick would reach four more Grand Slam finals, and four times runner-up Federer would be eliminated (He lost Wimbledom in five sets to the Swiss was particularly heartbreaking).
And so, in the nineteenth year, when will the drought end? Why guys can’t equal fellow countrymen Serena and Venus Williams, Sofia Kenin and Sloane Stephens, who have won 22 of the major slams between them in the same period.
Whatever the reasons, something is slowly changing and it looks like we may be approaching a period where American men will once again be a major threat in a slam.
Two Masters-level tournaments this spring featured impressive play by two young players in particular: 24-year-old Taylor Fritz and doubles partner Sebastian Korda, 21.
In March, at his state championships in Indian Wells, Fritz won his first Masters title. And not only this but He defeated Nadal in the final To achieve the definite victory in his career. While some might asterisk Fritz’s win due to the fact that Nadal had an injury, this analysis should not carry much weight as Fritz also easily defeated world No. 7 Andrei Rublev in straight sets in the semi-finals. The reliable way Fritz won the title was quite impressive – powerful serve, varied ground strikes and patient yet aggressive raids in the front yard. Former US Open Junior Champion Fritz has finally built an all-around game to fulfill his big promise.
And then just last week at the Monte Carlo Masters, Korda turned a man upside down Who announced the future of sports Carlos Alcaraz. Although Korda eventually lost in the fourth round (to Fritz, as it happens), his victory over the Spaniard sent a clear signal that he was about to break through in the big events.
What makes Korda a hot topic among tennis experts is the extraordinary ease of his game, which reminds many of Sampras. His hard-to-read silky smooth serve movement and his ability to finish points on the net make him a definite hazard on all surfaces.
Moreover, the Korda bloodline helps the young star to develop at his own pace. His father, Peter, won the Australian Open in 1998 (his sisters Nelly and Jessica are elite golfers accustomed to playing the sport on a world level as well). Peter has worked to instill a degree of perspective in his son, making sure he won’t be indulged in his early success.
The fact that Korda and Fritz did so well on the red dirt of Monte Carlo is against history. Except for the ’90s, American men have never done well in the clay industry. But both Fritz and Korda are skilled on all surfaces, and it’s quite a refreshing change of pace from the big forehand and forehand style of the new American players.
While Fritz, he is currently ranked 13y and Corda, 37yAre the two American men most poised to lift the Slam Cup in the near future, there are many other men worth mentioning. Riley Opelka, whose 6-foot-11-inch frame offers one of the most intimidating serve of the tour, is rated below Fritz at 17. While Opelka continues to utilize his improved foot speed to go along with his deadly serve, he is sure to make waves in the Four slams.
On the other end of the energy spectrum is Jenson Broxby. Although he doesn’t have a massive serve or particularly powerful groundstrokes, he does have an amazing tennis IQ and an innate ability to annoy and frustrate opponents, disrupting the rhythm of the match through unexpected shots and varied spins, leaving him behind. Confuse the opponents. The 21-year-old is ranked 39y It will likely be in the top 20 by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Francis Tiafoe may not have kept his early promise but he is a top 30 player.
Pessimists may scoff at the idea that Americans are ready to become a force in men’s tennis once again. Sure, they’re showing signs of life, but that’s only because Nadal, Federer and Djokovic are finally on a slow dip. But you can only play the role of who you are up against. And now Fritz, Korda, and many other young Americans seem ready to take up permanent residency in the top ten. Perhaps the dawning of a new golden age for American tennis players.