Tennis

Struggles continue for American men in search of first Miami Open title since 2010

Sam Querrey returns the ball to Denis Shapovalov during the Miami Open tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, FL, Mon., March 26, 2018.
Sam Querrey returns the ball to Denis Shapovalov during the Miami Open tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, FL, Mon., March 26, 2018. dvarela@miamiherald.com

It’s been tough going around these parts for this generation of American men players, but there’s been a glimmer of hope at the Miami Open this year.

This last Miami Open to be hosted on Key Biscayne has seen seven American men advance to the third-round. That’s the most number to reach that stage of the tournament since eight performed that feat back in 1996.

On the disappointing side of the equation, with eighth-seeded Jack Sock and unseeded Frances Tiafoe still to play later on Monday, only 14th-seeded John Isner, who defeated Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic on Sunday, advanced to the fourth-round.

Of the seven players to reach this year’s third-round, Isner’s enjoyed the best previous success here, reaching the 2015 semifinals.

In other Sunday third-round encounters, Americans Jared Donaldson and qualifier Michael Mmoh exited. And in earlier Monday matches, 11th-seeded Sam Querrey and unseeded Steve Johnson ended their 2018 Miami Open campaign.

Querrey played for nearly two-and-a-half hours before surrendering his serve in the last game of a 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 decision in favor of Canadian teen phenom Denis Shapovalov. Querrey, whose best result of the season was reaching the debut New York Open final in February, believes his best weapon is in need of some fine-tuning.

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Steve Johnson reacts after a failed return during the Miami Open tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, FL, Mon., March 26, 2018. Daniel A.Varela dvarela@miamiherald.com

“My first serve percentage has been bad for like a month,” he said. “I served at 41 percent, which makes it tough. I’ve been working on it, but I’m just out of rhythm right now.”

The history of the Miami Open boasts an overall 14 American victories by six different American players in its first 25 years — 13 of the first 19 years of the event were highlighted by Americans winning the trophy. But since Andy Roddick won his second Miami Open in 2010 it’s been a tropical drought for the homegrown bunch.

American Tim Mayotte won the first title in 1985 and Roddick’s 2010 victory makes him the last American men’s champion crowned at Crandon Park. The other Americans to hoist this trophy through the years were Andre Agassi, who co-owns the record for most Miami Open titles at six with Novak Djokovic, and Jim Courier, Michael Chang and Pete Sampras.

The tournament actually recorded a seven-year streak of American winners from 1990 through 1996.

Currently ranked No. 11, Sock insists he spends little time focusing on the fact he’s the top-ranked American in the game, preferring to concentrate on results.

“I don’t ever think about it, don’t lose sleep over it,” Sock said last week. “Obviously, it’s a special feeling and a great list of guys to join, but I’m out here trying to win titles.”

Sock, who reached the Miami Open quarterfinals for the first time last year, was scheduled to play 29th-ranked Borna Coric of Croatia later on Monday.

In his estimation, there’s no point in dwelling on the past. He prefers to be positive when judging the current group of American players.

“I like to think I’m in my prime time,” Sock said. “American fans and media always looking for the next up and coming and we definitely have a promising mix of guys coming up -- a tall guy like Riley (Opelka), very athletic, Francis (Tiafoe), who’s had great results, (Taylor) Fritz playing well right now. It’s definitely exciting. I think it will be good for American tennis.”

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