Tommy Paul was too little at the time to remember watching Andy Roddick win the 2003 U.S. Open, the last Grand Slam singles title for an American man.
Paul, now 25, does recall seeing posters from that triumph displayed at the club in North Carolina where he learned how to play tennis as a kid. What stood out the most, Paul said, was the Reebok outfit Roddick wore.
“I was actually salty when he switched to Lacoste. I was like, ‘He’s not going to win another Slam now,'” Paul said with a smile after reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open, where he will face Novak Djokovic of Serbia on Friday, after Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece faces Karen Khachanov of Russia. “I thought it was the outfits.”
That championship at Flushing Meadows two decades ago remains the last in Grand Slam singles for any American man, although a trio of fellows named Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic probably (wink) had more to do with where the major trophies kept going over the rest of Roddick’s career – and beyond – than any clothing choices.
Paul’s run at Melbourne Park is one of the many examples of the ways in which U.S. men are suddenly relevant again in tennis.
“Since I was young, that’s all we’ve been hearing. Since like 14 years old, the coaches have been telling us, ‘We need new Americans. We need new Americans.’ It’s kind of engraved in my head,” Paul said, tapping his temple with his right index finger. “We all want to perform. … I mean, I think we all want it pretty bad for ourselves, but we want it for U.S. tennis, too.”
This breakthrough for Paul, who never had been past the fourth round at a major, comes on the heels of Frances Tiafoe’s trip to the semifinals at the U.S. Open last September, which included a victory over Nadal before a loss to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz.
Serena and Venus Williams made sure U.S. women stayed at the forefront
That makes this sequence the first time U.S. men reached the final four at consecutive Slams in 16 years, when Roddick was the runner-up to Federer at the 2006 U.S. Open and lost to him in the semifinals at the 2007 Australian Open.
There’s more evidence to support the idea that a country that produced Don Budge and Bill Tilden and Arthur Ashe and John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi and more but did not matter in men’s tennis in recent years – Serena and Venus Williams, along with others, made sure U.S. women stayed at the forefront – must be taken more seriously.
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