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French Open Tennis • Winners Today • Isner, Olpeka, and Medvedev

By Ricky Dimon

Americans in Paris rarely do well–at least when it comes to American men.

So far at the 2021 French Open, however, they are faring just fine.

John Isner and Reilly Opelka blasted their way into the third round on Wednesday, and they are joined there–much more surprisingly–by Steve Johnson and Marcos Giron. Team USA could have had six into the last 32, but Mackenzie McDonald failed to convert either of two match points and lost to Cristian Garin in five sets before Tommy Paul fell to Daniil Medvedev after taking the first set.

It is rare Week 1 success at Roland-Garros for Isner and his compatriots.

“I don’t normally make it into Week 2 (of Grand Slams),” the 36-year-old said when asked to compare the pressure of Week 1 and Week 2. “That’s just the facts. But there is a lot of pressure early on in the event, especially in a first round. There [are] a lot of butterflies because everyone is so good, and it’s very easy to come out in a first round and play a tentative match. Lord knows I have done that before, and I’m sure a lot of high-ranked players have done that, because just like anything you want to try to get that first win under your belt and then maybe you can be off and running from there.

“I think the pressure, in my experience, is quite big in the first week. Now, if you ask Rafa that question or Roger, they’ll say the second week because that’s what they are accustomed to. For me, there definitely is a lot of pressure in the first week.”

Isner, Opelka, Johnson, and Giron are handling it well. On Thursday, Taylor Fritz could join the party. Fritz, a straight-set winner over Joao Sousa in round one, is going up against Dominik Koepfer.

Taylor Fritz of the USA in action against Joao Sousa of Portugal during their first round match at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 31 May 2021. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT 2

Count Isner among those who are confident in Fritz’s chances for success both right now and in the future.

“I really do think Taylor is a maximizer,” he commented. “He works hard. Off the court he’s kind of goofy; he’s a lot of fun to hang out with. But when he laces the shoots up, he competes his ass off. It’s very admirable.

He definitely believes he’s going to win every single match and every single point that he plays. He goes out there, and no matter what the score is he’s going to compete. He does a great job there. He has a lot of weapons, incredible backhand, good serve, good return. But I think the number one thing he has going for him is the way he competes.”

Surely drawing inspiration from his fellow Americans, you can be sure Fritz will be competing as hard as ever in his effort to make it five USA men in the last 32.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.