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American men’s tennis could have a promising future

Frances Tiafoe reacts after he wins the fourth

Frances Tiafoe reacts after he wins the fourth set against Roger Federer during his men's singles first round match on day two of the U.S. Open tennis tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Now that the new generation of American women tennis players has hit its stride at the U.S. Open, what is the state of American men’s tennis?

When Sloane Stephens, 24, defeated Madison Keys, 22, in the women’s final at the Open on Saturday, it was the first time that two American women had met for the title since 2002 when Serena Williams beat her sister, Venus. Serena was on maternity leave at this Open, and Venus, at 37, made the semifinals, beaten by Stephens. Keys beat CoCo Vandeweghe in her semi.

Of the 18 U.S. men in the main draw, no one made it as far as the quarterfinals. Veteran Sam Querrey, 29, lost in the fourth round, the farthest any American advanced. Jack Sock, at 13th the highest seeded American, lost in the first round. The last American man to win a Grand Slam was Andy Roddick at the Open in 2003. He is also the last American to reach a Grand Slam final, beaten by Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2009.

Frances Tiafoe is showing some promise and forced Roger Federer to five sets in the first round here before losing. At 6-0, 175 pounds with quick feet, he seems to have the physical tools to succeed.

Martin Blackman, general manager of player development for the USTA, carefully paints a rosy prospect for American men. “I think we are in the best place on the men’s side that we’ve been in 15 years,” said Blackman. “If you look at the success we’ve had the women’s side, we are probably two years away for the men . . . We have a great trajectory and a tremendous amount of momentum.”

As for Tiafoe’s performance against Federer, Blackman doesn’t see a fluke. “Backing up a little, what I saw in Cincinnati when Frances beat Alexander Zverev and what I’ve seen over the course of the year is dedication to the process and getting better. Against Roger, the intangible pieces, being able to break at 5-3 in the fifth after a grueling match with 23,000 people watching him play the best of all time, to give himself a chance to serve at 4-5. You don’t get to 4-5 in the fifth against Roger Federer as a flash in the pan.”

Things are looking good at the junior level for American women.

Amanda Anisimova, of Aventura, Florida defeated Cori Gauff, of nearby Delray Beach, 6-0, 6-2 to win the Open junior girls title on Sunday. That means three different American girls have won junior singles titles at Grand Slam tournaments for the first time ever. Whitney Osuigwe, of Bradenton, Florida defeated Claire Liu, of Thousand Oaks, California in the French Open girls’ final, while Liu beat Ann Li, of Devon, Pennsylvania in the Wimbledon girls’ final. Liu and Osuigwe are the top two players in the International Tennis Federation rankings.

There were 19 U.S. boys in the junior draw of 64 and two of them, Danny Thomas and Oliver Crawford, made it as far as the quarterfinals. Two Long Islanders, Ryan Goetz of Greenlawn and Brian Shi of Jericho lost in the first round. In the ITF rankings, Crawford is the highest at 15th. Patrick Kypson and Sebastian Korda are 20 and 21.

But Blackman sees that in the top 200 junior boys in the world, the U.S. has strength in numbers. Now, following the women’s success, those numbers need to translate into game, set, match, Grand Slam Championship.

New York Sports