Americans in Paris? Five women and zero men made the Round of 16 at the French Open

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Jessica Pegula roared towards the crowd after her victory at the French Open on Saturday. The 28-year-old just defeated Tamara Zidansek, a 2021 semifinalist at the tournament, 6-1, 7-6 (2) and advanced to the fourth round at Roland Garros for the first time in her career.

“[I’m] definitely very happy to say that I’ve made [the] second week at [the] French Open,” Pegula told reporters after the match and was all but guaranteed to make her debut in the top 10 in the next rankings. “That’s something I don’t think a lot of people thought I could do.”

She was just one of several American success stories in the third round over the past two days.

On Friday, Coco Gauff made her second-straight fourth round at the event with a straight-set win over Kaia Kanepi, Amanda Anisimova reached her first Round of 16 at a major since 2019, and Sloane Stephens, who had been winless in all four of her lead-in matches on clay, made the second week in Paris for the eighth time in her career. Madison Keys provided the punctuation mark for the American contingent with an epic win over Elena Rybakina in a third-set tiebreak in the final match of the day on Saturday on Court Simonne-Mathieu.

It’s the first time since 2003 there are five American women in the Round of 16 at the French Open.

But of course that’s only half of the story for the Americans in Paris.

There had been 10 Americans remaining in the singles draws as the third round got underway on Friday at the French Open. In what perhaps sums up the past two decades of American tennis best, all of those advancing to the second week are women.

The men who made the Round of 32 – John Isner, Sebastian Korda, Mackenzie McDonald and Brandon Nakashima – all lost (as did Shelby Rogers). There will be no countrymen in the fourth round at the French Open for the second-straight year. Korda, who lost to Carlos Alcaraz on Friday, was the last to make it to the second week at the tournament, as he did in 2020, and no one has made it to the quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. (Agassi was also the last American man to win the title in 1999.)

Things have looked to be turning around recently however, with a crop of talented young stars, like Korda, McDonald, Nakashima, Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, Frances Tiafoe and Jenson Brooksby continuing to impress and make moves, but their collective results in Paris show there is still a ways to go, especially away from the hardcourt.

So for now, it will again be the American women keeping the country’s hopes alive – yet again – on the Parisian red clay. Serena Williams was the last to win at the event, and since her victory in 2015, Stephens (2018) and Sofia Kenin (2020) have also both reached the final, as did Williams in 2016. As the 2022 French Open has been wildly unpredictable, with No. 1 Iga Swiatek as the only top-10 seed remaining in the women’s draw, it seems more than plausible another American could join that list.

A suddenly-resurgent Stephens, who won the US Open title in 2017, will face No. 23 Jil Teichman on Sunday, and could meet Gauff, who takes on No. 31 seed Elise Mertens in the fourth round, in the quarterfinals. Anisimova, who is in the other quarter of the bottom half of the draw, takes on 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez in a Gen Z clash, and could potentially face Stephens or Gauff in the semifinals. Pegula, who is in the other half of the draw, was impressed by what she had seen of both Gauff and Anisimova thus far.

“I think it’s a great chance for Coco again to make [the] quarters again,” Pegula said on Saturday. “And I think Amanda has been playing really well. I think she is someone that can take the racquet out of your hand at any time and maybe [got] a little bit lucky to get through her last match, but sometimes that’s what you need, so I think she’s going to be very dangerous.”

Pegula will next face Irina-Camelia Begu on Monday, and could set up a potential showdown with Swiatek, the tournament’s overwhelming favorite, in the quarterfinals. She was pragmatic about her chances going forward.

“I have a tough match against Begu, I lost to her twice now [at a Melbourne 250-level tournament in January and a $125K event in 2020],” she said. “So, yeah, it will be tough. She can be really, really tricky and she has some really good wins and I think she’s a very underrated player as far as, even experience-wise. She’s been around and she’s had consistent good results and she’s always tough to play against. So that’s going to be really tough.

“And as far as Iga, I mean obviously I have to see her as the favorite going through. Hopefully we play each other in the quarters, that would be great.”

Keys, who sits in the other quarter of Pegula’s half of the draw, next faces Veronika Kudermetova on Monday. Having made her first fourth round in the City of Light since 2019, Keys didn’t seem to be thinking too far ahead, or on the big picture for American tennis, after such a tough battle on Saturday.

“Growing up we always dream of being in these big tournaments and doing well in them so being able to make a second week means so much,” Keys said on the court following the win. “I’m so happy I get to be in Paris a little bit longer.”

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