Lawn Tennis, Paris Open, Lawn Tennis Magazine
Can The Americans Turn Their Claycourt Streak Around?
By Tripp Mateschitz, Lawn Tennis Analyst, Posted: Thursday, May 14, 2009 8:40pm PST USA
Can The Americans Turn Their Claycourt Streak Around?, Lawn Tennis Magazine Paris--( While Rafael Nadal of Spain and Roger Federer of Switzerland all but dominate men's tennis, the last American male to win a grand slam title was Andy Roddick in 2003 at the US Open.

That period of time from Roddick's 2003 win to present time; with 21 grand slams played, marks the longest grand slam drought in the Open era for the American ATP Tour players. In a similar period, after John McEnroe took the 1984 Wimbledon title, 18 grand slams passed before Michael Chang scored victory at the 1989 French Open.

But at this year's French Open, tennis' second of four grand slams beginning May 24th at Paris, the USA's chances for grand slam glory might appear bleak at best.

Jim Courier, in 1992, became the last American male to win the French Open. Courier, a baseline powerhouse also took the Paris title, known throughout Europe as Roland Garros, in 1991.

The current crop of American upstarts; the 6th ranked Andy Roddick, the 16th ranked James Blake, the 26th ranked Mardy Fish and the 60th ranked Sam Querrey also possess similarly arresting games. However they perhaps lack the baseline patience and determination necessary for clay court success.

Jim Courier of the USA
Lawn Tennis The French Open
The booming first serve, an American staple, loses some of its punch on the slow clay.

Nadal, a master of clay, has never lost a match at the French Open, winning the title the last four years. Meanwhile, the male Americans much like their female counterparts would prefer faster hardcourts, grasscourts or indoor surfaces.

Second ranked Serena Williams and her sister, the third ranked Venus Williams have won the last three grand slams contested, but both have struggled on the clay this season.

Serena, fighting a leg injury, went 0-3 in her French Open claycourt preparation matches while Venus went 4-3 and struggled with five of her seven claycourt matches going three sets. Serena, however, is the last American to win the singles French Open title as she claimed a Roland Garros championship victory in 2002.

However, the booming first serve, an American staple, loses some of its punch on the slow clay. And if it rains, the surface becomes slower still and overpowering groundstrokes suddenly are playable.

A lack of stamina or correct technique, no deal breakers on hardcourts, become painfully obvious on claycourts as many baseline rallies last for twenty or more strokes.

The USA on the other hand has this spring shown signs of French Open hope. Roddick, whose best Paris finish was a 2001 third round result, takes on Federer Friday in the Madrid quarterfinals. And the 2002 French Open finalist Venus Williams last week at Rome steadied her game enough to push comeback queen and world number one Dinara Safina of Russia for more than three hours before losing in the semifinals 6-7(3-7), 6-3, 6-4.

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