Don’t look now, but they are coming. For a nation sated with success (think Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick), America is currently in the middle of something of a tennis famine. But there are rumblings: down in the middle to lower reaches of the world’s top 100, the new boys are on the move.
A year ago, the mighty tennis nation that is America took a bit of a pummelling on the opening day of the Australian Open. By the close of play, the serial Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, the highest-ranked seed from the US, John Isner, the previous year’s semifinalist Coco Vandeweghe and the-then US Open champion Sloane Stephens had all lost. Thanks to the 19-hour time difference, it meant that by the time people in California were sitting down to their supper, a great swathe of American players were already on their way home from Melbourne. On the day before, in US time, the tournament had even started. It wasn’t good.
Twelve months on and three days into Australian Open 2019, the Stars and Stripes are still waving over Melbourne Park – but there are newer names doing the waving. Leading the group of young hopes is Frances Tiafoe, who galloped into the third round with a 4-6 6-4 6-4 7-5 win over Kevin Anderson.