Novak Djokovic gets why male tennis players from the United States are expected to win Grand Slam titles today, the way they did when Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, and Jimmy Connors were around. And he gets—that’s not to say he agrees with—why anything less is not really acceptable to the country’s fans.
“Of course, when you are used to champions and No. 1s in the world, Grand Slam winners, anything except that is not a success, right?” Djokovic said. “It’s a very high standard and criteria for these guys to meet, that you had players that were in the Top 10, like John Isner, after Andy Roddick. If Isner didn’t win a Slam, people would think it’s kind of a failed career, which I don’t agree with. But again, I understand, because America is such a big country in tennis.”
Djokovic, a 36-year-old from Serbia with 23 Grand Slam titles, is going to need to beat two men from the host country at the U.S. Open if he is to play in what would be his 10th final at Flushing Meadows next Sunday. That’s because he’ll face No. 9 seed Taylor Fritz in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, while No. 10 Frances Tiafoe meets unseeded Ben Shelton in the other matchup on the bottom half of the bracket.
Fritz, Tiafoe, and Shelton give the United States three American men in the final eight at the U.S. Open since 2005, when Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Robby Ginepri did it.
Roddick’s title at the 2003 U.S. Open was the last major singles championship for an American man.
While Fritz was in the locker room Sunday, waiting to take the court for his fourth-round match, he kept tabs on TV while Tiafoe—a semifinalist in New York a year ago—and Shelton were picking up their victories.
“It motivated me more,” Fritz said, “because I didn’t want to be the one to not make it.” Fritz is a 25-year-old from California, Tiafoe is a 25-year-old from Maryland; and Shelton is a 20-year-old who won the 2022 NCAA title for the University of Florida.
“It’s a really cool opportunity for American tennis. This is what you guys always talk to us about: Who’s going to be the next Grand Slam champion? Who’s going to do it?’” Shelton said this at a news conference after eliminating yet another American, Tommy Paul.
“I always have the same reply: American tennis is going in a great direction, and I don’t know who’s going to be the next to get a Slam, be the next Andy Roddick,’ but I know we’re all on our own path and we’re all doing things our own way and improving year to year,” Shelton said. “I can see it in these guys. Hopefully see the same kind of trend with myself.”
The country’s women have enjoyed far more success over the past two decades, thanks largely to the Williams sisters, but there have also been recent major trophies earned by Sloane Stephens and Sofia Kenin. Two U.S. women reached the quarterfinals this time: Coco Gauff, a finalist at the 2022 French Open, and Madison Keys, who made it that far at the 2017 U.S. Open.
That was the last year there were a total of five players from the U.S. in the quarterfinals in New York, and back then, four of those five were women (who all reached the semifinals).
“It’s just really exciting tennis for America,” said Gauff, who plays Jelena Ostapenko on Tuesday for a semifinal berth. “I hope that the fans are excited.”