The American men: ‘Turn on the lights’

Sebastian Korda
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Sebastian Korda won today in Belgium. He is ranked No. 36, which is very decent. But like everyone, he wants to go much higher. He plays a lot, and he can be super consistent, and he can also mix it up, a lot. Just like his father, Petr, who won the 1998 Australian Open, who was an aggressive player. He rose to  No. 2 but wasn’t quick enough to stay there.

The younger Korda is faster on the court, but at times he is not aggressive enough. He is only 22 years old, and should be able to make up for the lack of power by being much more thoughtful on the court.

The American men can be very good, but they have yet to win a Grand Slam yet. Taylor Fritz is ranked No. 9 and he has a solid shot to play in the ATP Finals. He did win Indian Wells over Rafa Nadal. He can be in-your-face with his outstanding forehand and backhand. He can get frustrated and get upset, but now he can turn it around. He finally went into the top 10, which is huge, and he has beaten some excellent players, such as Andrey Rublev, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alexander Zverev. However, he has lost to some mediocre players.

The same lack of consistency is styming the other young American.  Fritz beat Korda in 2022, and he also tripped up Frances Tiafoe, another fine American. This season Tiafoe rose higher, not only riding his big strokes, but now he can read  how to combat his opponent. His first serve can be huge and he is now much better at to the net. He can be spin his groundstrokes and bash them back. He likely will not qualify at the ATP Finals, but the No. 17 can eventually rest when the year is over and realize that in 2023 he can leap into the top 10.

The fascinating thing is at some point one of the Americans will have the goods to win a Grand Slam. I do not mean the women, because Serena and Venus Williams have won 30 majors, a record for sisters. That is almost mind-blowing.

But can the American men chop down the top 5 players in the three out of five sets, such as No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Casper Ruud, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas have done? In the two out of three, it is possible. Nadal and Djokovic are the smartest player perhaps ever, and their fitness is over the top.

How about this? None of these American men have reached the semis at a Slam, which means they have miles to go.

When they talk, they do believe that they can beat the odds and put together a huge amount of aces. And winners, too. This week, Mackenzie McDonald has reached the semis. Reilly Opelka has had a good year, as well as Tommy Paul, Maxime Cressy, Jenson Brooksby and Brandon Nakashima. They are in the top 50, and you can throw in John Isner, who is ranked No. 49. But the 37-year-old is sliding. He has had some wonderful matches, but you cannot stay a force forever.

At the start of 2023, they will be so enthusiastic to excel. So in January, turn on the lights.