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Tennis: Top U.S. men have caught up to women's success, players say

 UPI News logo: MainLogo UPI News 3/22/2023 Alex Butler

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla., March 22 (UPI) -- U.S. men's tennis stars say they want questioning to stop about their 19-year Grand Slam drought as competition gets underway at the Miami Open.

"We've been asked that kind of stuff forever, so it's definitely pretty old," Fritz said at Miami Open media day Tuesday in Miami Gardens, Fla.

"But we'll probably be getting asked about it a lot more now because I do think now people are seeing that, between a couple of us, there are real slam contenders. Realistically, any of the upcoming slams could be the one."

Fritz is the highest-ranked (No. 10) American man among nine in the Top-50 of the ATP rankings.

Frances Tiafoe (No. 14), Tommy Paul (No. 19), Sebastian Korda (No. 26), Maxime Cressy (No. 37), Ben Shelton (No. 39), Brandon Nakashima (No. 45), John Isner (No. 46) and J.J. Wolf (No. 50) are in that group.

Fritz, Tiafoe, Paul, Cressy, Shelton, Nakashima, Isner and Wolf will compete this month at the Miami Open. Main draw matches will be held from Wednesday through April 2 on the Hard Rock Stadium campus.
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"I think the conversation almost needs to stop, but obviously it won't until it happens," Tiafoe said of the two-decade men's Grand Slam drought.

"But our guys are doing great things. Guys are knocking on the door, but it's a matter of doing it. You still have some guys named Novak Djokovic. I don't care about where you're from, he is not letting you get slams."

Djokovic won't play at the Miami Open because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19, which is required under U.S international travel regulations. He did not play in the 2022 U.S. Open for the same reason.

Tiafoe went on to upset Spaniard Rafael Nadal and Russian Andrey Rublev in the latter tournament, but lost to top-ranked Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals.

In January, three American men -- Korda, Paul and Shelton -- reached the Australian Open quarterfinals for the first time in more than 20 years.

Paul beat Shelton to advance, but lost to No. 2 Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the semifinals. That loss meant that Andy Roddick, winner of the 2003 U.S. Open, would remain the last American man to hoist a Grand Slam trophy.
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Either Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer or Andy Murray was the winner of 65 of the last 76 men's Grand Slam singles titles since Roddick won the most recent American crown.

American men won 52.8% of Grand Slam singles titles before their drought began. Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier were responsible for most of that success.

"The woman's American side has been pretty deep for a really long time," said American Jessica Pegula, who is ranked No. 3 in the world. "I think probably in the past year or two the men finally caught up, with at least the amount of players in the Top 50 or Top 70."

Pegula said she follows American men's matches closely. She gets updates on her phone from a tennis scoring app for some of her favorite players.

"I think they're close," Pegula said. "They obviously have a lot of really good players that are amazing athletes and can go deep and have gotten big wins in big tournaments, but since Andy Roddick, it has been a long, long time."

Sofia Kenin, who won the 2020 Australian Open, was the last American to win a women's or men's Grand Slam singles title. Retired tennis star Serena Williams won 23 of 76 titles women's Grand Slams titles contested during a stretch from 1999 to 2017.

American women won 37 of 84 Grand Slam titles in major tournament contested from 1999 to 2020, including 22 since Roddick's 2003 triumph.

Cori "Coco" Gauff, 19, wasn't alive to see Roddick's victory. She said she is close to several of the top U.S. men's stars and also enjoys watching their rise up the rankings.

"Not to be too high on the horse, but the women were holding it down for a while," Gauff said.

"Now, I will say it's pretty fairly even and I think the fans should enjoy that. Both sides from the U.S. are really doing well. Hopefully, we'll be able to cross that step on the men's side where they can win a Grand Slam."

Miami Open matches will air on the Tennis Channel.


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