American Men take Melbourne by Storm

Mackenzie McDonald vs Nadal AO 2023

American men have taken the 2023 Australian Open by storm. Eight men repping the Red, White, and Blue are into the third round in Melbourne. Having a few Americans reach the third round of a Slam used to be the target. The new generation is setting the bar high, as 25% of the remaining men in the singles draw are American. The average age of the eight remaining Americans is 23.5, which indicates a bright future for the health of the USTA.

Unprecedented American success

The massive upsets

For the first time since 1994, both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds were defeated by American men at the same Grand Slam.

Mackenzie McDonald defeated No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-4 7-5. Although the 22-time Grand Slam champion was hobbled with a hip injury at the end of the second set, McDonald dominated the match up until that point. The American was doing something few players in history have found success doing–attacking Nadal’s forehand. This is the second time McDonald has reached the third round of the Australian Open. He matches up with No. 31 Yoshihito Nishioka, a player who has gotten the better of McDonald in four of their five meetings.

Jenson Brooksby took down No. 2 seed Casper Ruud 6-3 7-5 6-7(4) 6-2. It was a terrific performance of determination from the 22-year-old, who allowed Ruud to win the third set from 2-5 down. Brooksby was able to regroup and dominate the Norwegian in the fourth. The difference in this match was the ability to grind out long points. Brooksby won 69% of points that consisted of nine or more shots. He will face fellow American Tommy Paul in Round 3. Paul won their only previous meeting.

The remaining seeds

Three American men were seeded at the 2023 Australian Open. Two of those men remain.

No. 16 seed Frances Tiafoe has looked dominant in his wins over Daniel Altmaier and Juncheng Shang. He dropped just one set in the two matches and has seemed to find his stride in Australia. Including United Cup play, Tiafoe is 7-0 on the season in singles matches. He is the only American left with experience playing deep into Slams. He reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne in 2019 and is coming off a run to the 2022 US Open semifinals. Tiafoe takes on No. 18 seed Karen Khachanov in the third round. Khachanov has won both of their previous meetings.

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No. 29 seed Sebastian Korda has looked in control during his first and second-round victories. Korda defeated Cristian Garin and Yosuke Watanuki, dropping just one set in the process. The emergence of a consistent and powerful serve for the 22-year-old has allowed him to turn a corner. However, that will be tested against one of the best defenders in the game, Daniil Medvedev. Korda will take on the 2021 US Open champion in round three of the Australian Open. Medvedev won their only previous encounter.

The wide-open bottom quarter

The bottom quarter of the draw has turned into something we rarely see in men’s tennis. No. 24 Roberto Bautista Agut is the only seeded player remaining in this section, offering a career-changing opportunity for the five Americans in this part of the draw. Michael Mmoh, Tommy Paul, Ben Shelton, J.J. Wolf, and the aforementioned Jenson Brooksby represent five of the eight players in the bottom quarter. None of these guys have reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal, let alone a semifinal.

Mmoh and Wolf are set to square off in Round 3. Wolf has gotten the better of Mmoh in their two previous encounters, both straight-set victories on the Challenger Tour. I give the slight edge to Wolf in this match due to his aggressive ball striking and ability to put his opponent under constant pressure.

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Brooksby and Paul will also play for the right to reach the Australian Open fourth round. Despite just missing out on a seed, both of these guys are in the Top 40 and have proven to be very formidable players on tour. I expect a back-and-forth five-set battle between the two.

Shelton will take on Australian wild card Alexei Popyrin in Round 3. This will be the first meeting between the two. This is Shelton’s second career Grand Slam appearance, and he shows no signs of nerves. Popyrin, however, will be a very tough test as the Aussie played the best tennis of his career to take down Taylor Fritz in five sets. Will the 20-year-old be able to deal with a very pro Aussie crowd on a show court?

The depth and strength of the USTA has never been better. With the way the draw breaks, we could have anywhere from two to six Americans in the Round of 16 at the Australian Open. Expect a major year for American tennis across the globe.

Main Photo from Getty.