10sBalls.com • TennisBalls.com

Korda and other American men on the move at Australian Open

On the heels of breakthrough 2022 campaigns, Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe were supposed to lead the American charge on the men’s side in 2023.

That could still happen–it just won’t at the Australian Open.

Fritz, the No. 8 seed, fell victim to the “Netflix curse” and crashed out in the second round to world No. 113 Alexei Popyrin. Just about 24 hours later when third-round action got underway in Melbourne, Tiafoe lost to Karen Khachanov in four sets after blowing a 6-1 lead in the fourth-set tiebreaker.

Looking at just those two results by themselves, you would think that the 2023 Aussie Open was nothing short of a train wreck for the American men.

Quite the contrary. Even without Fritz and Tiafoe, this is shaping up to be their most successful Grand Slam since Andy Roddick triumphed at the 2003 U.S. Open.

Tiafoe was one of eight Americans who reached the third round at Melbourne Park, joined by Sebastian Korda (now in the fourth round after ousting Daniil Medvedev in straight sets), Mackenzie McDonald, Jenson Brooksby, Tommy Paul, J.J. Wolf, Michael Mmoh, and Ben Shelton. Each of the top two seeds at the season’s first slam got bounced by Team USA: No. 1 Rafael Nadal at the hands of McDonald (albeit an injury-plagued result) and No. 2 Casper Ruud courtesy of a typical Brooksby performance that left the opponent completely baffled.

McDonald, who dealt with an injury of his own two days after upsetting Nadal, preceded Tiafoe through the exit. But Brooksby, Paul, Wolf, Mmoh, and Shelton are all still alive in the bottom half of the bracket. At least two are guaranteed to join Korda in the last 16, as Brooksby vs. Paul and Wolf vs. Mmoh make up a pair of all-American matchups on Saturday’s schedule. A quarter (eight of 32) of the Aussie Open third-round lineup consisted of the United States flag and the same (four of 16) will be the case for the fourth round if Shelton defeats Popyrin.

“That’s going to be another battle for sure,” Brooksby said of his upcoming contest with Paul. “A lot of the Americans are doing really well right now and we’re all pushing each other.”

They’re not just pushing but also beating the best players in the world. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better for the stars and stripes after Brooksby ousted Ruud, Korda’s upset of Medvedev–a major champion and recent world No. 1–was even bigger.

“I always was told how good of a tennis player I can be,” Korda commented. “Now (I’m) just getting the right people around me, building a really solid team, just trusting the process. I’m growing as a person (and) as a player. (I’m) just trying to do the right things; just have fun, enjoy it. Good things will happen.”

They’re happening alright.

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