American talent a washout in Paris

The hype regarding American men's tennis has failed to translate in the French Open.

Updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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Paris:The hype regarding American men's tennis failed to translate in the French Open. A group of highly touted US youngsters fared poorly at Roland Garros, leaving just two Americans in the third round: Andre Agassi, 33, and Vince Spadea, 28. By contrast, nine US women reached the third round, including top-seeded defending champion Serena Williams. Among the 11 American men already eliminated are sixth-seeded Andy Roddick, No. 24 James Blake, Mardy Fish, Taylor Dent and Brian Vahaly - all 23 or younger. Blake lost in the second round, the others in the first round. The five youngsters have all improved their rankings since the start of the year, and all expected to do better at Roland Garros. "We're all struggling right now," said Blake, who lost yesterday. "At least we went through it together". American men have a long history of faring poorly in the French Open. They went from 1955 (Tony Trabert) to 1989 (Michael Chang) without a champion. Pete Sampras, touted by many as the greatest player ever, never even reached a French final. The problem, Blake said, is that Americans don't grow up playing on clay, while many Europeans and South Americans do. "We're supposedly world-class athletes," he said. "Even world-class athletes can't adjust in one week or two weeks to something the other guys have been doing for their whole life. That makes it difficult". Nearly a third of the winners yesterday, for example, were Spanish. That included defending champion Albert Costa, 2002 runner-up Juan Carlos Ferrero, 20th-seeded Felix Mantilla, No.28 Tommy Robredo and Fernando Vincente. Perhaps things will be different for the young Americans once the grasscourt season begins next month. On the other hand, at last year's Wimbledon, there were no US men in the fourth round for the first time in 80 years. "We have got a young batch of players that are starting to run into a bit of a speed bump," said American Todd Martin, 32, who also lost yesterday. "This period of time is going to be a big challenge for our younger players. Their games are certainly up to it, and I am pretty confident that mentally and emotionally they are up to dealing with this dose of reality". As for clay, Blake said he and other young Americans need to start practicing on it more. The motivation, he said, will be to show they can win at Roland Garros. (AP)

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