No American male has won a Grand Slam event in two decades, but there still are multiple potential candidates with a chance to capture this year’s U.S. Open title — and to become the country’s first major champion since Andy Roddick hoisted the trophy in Flushing in 2003.
Four American men were slated to be in action in Sunday’s fourth round, with 47th-ranked Ben Shelton starting off the massive day’s slate by advancing to a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the second time this year with an overpowering 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory over No. 14 seed and fellow American Tommy Paul at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“It’s just different here being at home, being in front of an American crowd,” Shelton said afterward. “I’ve felt the love all week, playing against foreigners. Played another American today, and we had a great battle.
“The crowd was pretty split, but an unbelievable atmosphere.”
The 20-year-old Floridian blasted two 149-mph aces in one game in the third set, the highest recorded in the tournament.
Even Paul stopped to applaud the feat.
“Just straight adrenaline. I think my arm might fall off,” Shelton said.
Shelton, also a quarterfinalist at the Australian Open earlier this year, became the youngest American male to reach the Open quarters since Roddick (also 20) did so in 2002.
He will face the winner of Sunday’s match between No.10 Frances Tiafoe, one of the other Americans remaining in the draw, and Australian Rinky Hijikata.
Taylor Fritz, the No. 9 seed, also will be in action later in the day against Switzerland’s Dominic Stricker.
Thus, this year’s tournament marks the first time since 2011 that four American men reached the Open’s fourth round; the U.S.-produced quartet that year consisted of Roddick, Mardy Fish, John Isner, and Donald Young.
That year also was the last time two Americans (Isner and Roddick) reached the quarters here.
WIth Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal dominating the Grand Slam scene for the past two decades, no American male player has been able to break through since Roddick 20 years ago, the lone major victory of his career.
If both Tiafoe and Fritz avoid elimination later Sunday, this would become the first time that three American men advanced to the Open quarters since 2005 when Andre Agassi, James Blake and Robby Ginepri all reached the final eight, with Agassi eventually losing in the finals to Roger Federer.
Shelton and the 26-year-old Paul, a South Jersey native, also had matched up in the quarters at the Australian in January, with Paul prevailing in four sets.
Paul broke early and took a quick 3-0 lead, but the lefty Shelton won six of seven games to grab the first set, closing it out with an ace.
Paul appeared to turn an ankle at 2-2 in the second set, and Shelton won four straight games to close out the set and take a 2-0 lead.
Paul rebounded in the third set, but Shelton closed him out with a break in the fourth as Paul’s baseline return sailed long.