For nearly two decades, the US Open has awaited another native men’s champion. The last American man to win the US Open was Andy Roddick way back in 2003.
As the 20th anniversary of that native victory approaches, American men’s tennis is enjoying a minor renaissance at Flushing Meadows right now.
Four US men reached the round of 16 at this year’s US Open with three progressing to the quarter-finals. That’s the best showing of Americans to feature in the second week of the tournament since 2011.
Ben Shelton, Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul have been that home-grown quartet going well with only the latter not making the last eight US men standing.
12 years ago, it was Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, John Isner and Donald Young who reached the round of 16. What was notable in 2011 though was that few were predicting that US tennis was ‘back’ based on those performances.
Roddick and Fish were already classed as veterans even then and though a 26-year-old Isner would continue improving, to reach a career-high ranking of number 8 in the world by 2018, Young’s 2011 showing would prove to be the pinnacle of his journey in pro tennis.
Given the fleeting moments of the 2011 class, how does the 2023 batch compare?
Perhaps the class of ‘23 shows signs that they will fare better and for longer. Shelton is just 20 years old and has made the breakthrough into grand slam tennis this year. He only turned professional after beating Casper Ruud at the Cincinnati Open last summer.
Shelton may yet be the next big thing in American men’s tennis. The Atlanta native has swagger and is looking like a player who will thrive on the biggest stages. Shelton has been the stars-and-stripes standout so far in the tournament.
Tiafoe is 25 and made his first major semi-final at last year’s US Open. Fritz is the same age and has been the top-ranked American man since November 2021.
Tommy Paul has a year on this pair and reached his highest world position in August when he rose to position no. 23. Paul was knocked out by his compatriot Shelton in the round of 16 at the weekend but his time at the US Open has matched his best run in a grand slam having reached the same stage of Wimbledon in 2022.
In the US Open ‘23 ‘also ran’ class Sebastian Korda was a disappointment with his first-round exit at the hands of Márton Fucsovics however. The 23-year-old had hinted at better things when he came close to disrupting Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open preparations. Korda pushed the Serb into needing to save a championship point at the Adelaide International in January. His time will surely come again.
While the spotlight shines on the promising resurgence of American men's tennis, it's essential to also consider the international titans that have dominated the scene. Over the past two decades, players from Spain, Switzerland, Serbia, and other nations have consistently been at the forefront of Grand Slam titles, including the US Open.
The 2023 edition sees Spain's Carlos Alcaraz, the reigning world number one, as a major contender. His rapid ascent and captivating style of play have earned him accolades from critics and fans alike.
Furthermore, tennis betting odds have placed him among the favorites, reflecting the global belief in his potential to clinch the title. Although Alejandro Davidovich Fokina has made an early exit, Spain's representation remains strong due to Alcaraz's formidable presence.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic, a multiple-time Grand Slam champion, is always a force to be reckoned with. The young Russian duo, Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev, also continues their ascendancy, making their mark as some of the top competitors in men's tennis.
For the home-grown talent, these international players represent significant hurdles. Their impressive track records and consistent form mean that any victory by an American player at this year's US Open would not only symbolize a resurgence for US men's tennis but also highlight a monumental achievement in overcoming a stacked global field.
The demise of American tennis during the past two decades only applies in the men’s game of course. With the ladies’ category dominated for so long by the Williams sisters, it will take a similar period without success before anyone can claim that US women have not been flying the flag.
Coco Gauff has picked up the baton and continues to be one of the favorites to win at Flushing this year. Meanwhile, Jessica Pegula has enjoyed a good 2023 US Open after rising to no. 3 in the world at the end of 2022. That has been the highest position achieved by an American woman since Serena Williams in 2016.
It’s also true that by no means is tennis a sport that is in decline in America. The crowds at the Billy Jean King Tennis Center have continued to break records during the 2023 edition. Not only that but the raucous atmosphere has made headlines around the world. New York tennis fans never disappoint.
The promise shown by the young American cohort at the 2023 US Open sparks hope. After 20 years, perhaps Flushing Meadows is on the cusp of celebrating a native men's champion once again.
Whether you're backing an American contender or rooting for an international star, you can bet on your favorites at any one of New York’s best sportsbooks.