After Frances Tiafoe loses, American men are out of the French Open

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PARIS — Regularly this century, there’s a day in the early stages of the French Open when the American men’s singles players are entirely eliminated. There’s not a ceremony or anything, but there are ample flights departing from Charles de Gaulle. That day came Saturday at this French Open — they’re gone, all 16 of them, after the third round — but it just didn’t look all that hopeless.

Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe — both 25, the highest-ranked Americans at Nos. 8 and 12, the leaders of the fresh American wave of which few Americans seem aware and the last two standing here — had moments that could allow for hope without delusion regarding an event that long has flummoxed their countrymen. That’s even though Fritz did conclude his loss with a mis-hit return off the frame that flew like a drunken bird somewhere wide, and then Fritz turned around to the coaching box with a kind of baffled gesture.

“He’s a top player,” said Francisco Cerundolo, which helps explain Cerundolo tumbling on his back after his 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 win as if the round were somewhere well beyond third.

Tiafoe is also a top player, or just about getting there, so a first trip to the third round here had to count as progress, especially given how the Marylander managed to get such an early draw opposite Alexander Zverev, who reached the 2021 and 2022 semifinals here but left the latter in a wheelchair after a gruesome ankle injury from which he is still recovering. The male Americans’ presence here technically ended Sunday because Zverev’s taut 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) win ended at 12:19 a.m. Paris time. Tiafoe walked off looking sorely disappointed after a hug with his friend since age 11.

“[Considering] how bad I was for so many years here, I played well,” he said with a laugh at your everyday 12:56 a.m. news conference. “I played well. For the majority of the match, I felt like I was in control. I felt like I was controlling the rally for the most part. I thought I was a better player for a lot of times.”

He didn’t sound unrealistic.

No American man has reached the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003, a sentence that sits around in cobwebs on a shelf and gets brought back out every now and then. None has reached a semifinal since Agassi won the thing in 1999. Four have reached the fourth round, including John Isner thrice and Robby Ginepri twice. This became the fourth year out of five and the sixth year out of eight in which the exodus wrapped up by the third round.

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It follows on a terrific Australian Open that saw one American in the semifinals (Tommy Paul), three in the quarterfinals, four in the last 16 and eight in the last 32. That followed on a year-end ranking that had nine Americans in the top 50, the most since 1996, not long after a 17-year span (from 2004 to 2020) when that number ranged…

Read More: After Frances Tiafoe loses, American men are out of the French Open 2023-06-04 03:15:00

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