Another French Open to forget for the Americans

PARIS -- On Sunday night, Steve Johnson was riffing about "back in the day," when Michael Chang and Jim Courier and, later, Andre Agassi all won the title here at Roland Garros. He lauded the recent success of John Isner on clay (he won two matches in Rome and reached the finals a week ago in Nice) and hoped it was contagious.

"If he does well, you know, we all believe we can do well, I feel like," said Johnson after winning his first-round match over No. 26 seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. "It's one of those things where you see your buddy win and you're going to feel the same confidence. I think I was the only American to play today, to win. Maybe tomorrow the Americans will come out guns blazing and go out and take care of business.


Despite 16 aces, Sam Querrey could muster only one set versus Borna Coric in the opening round at the French Open.

"Just one of those things that confidence kind of breeds more confidence, and winning, just amongst the group, is always beneficial."

The opposite, of course, is true of losing.

After Sam Querrey fell to 18-year-old phenom Borna Coric 7-6 (8), 6-3, 0-6, 6-3, Americans had won exactly one of their first 10 matches.

"It's no different than the last six years here," Querrey said. "It's just tough. Lot of tough draws for the women and the men, too. No one got the qualifier or the wild card. Definitely not been good for the Americans."

Indeed. Recently, clay and Americans at Roland Garros have gone together like, well, Roger Federer and consummate crowd control, but this year the United States placed a healthy 24 players into the main draws.

But then the Americans -- typically not possessing the patience required of the dirt that elongates rallies -- reverted to form.

Alison Riske, the 24-year-old from Atlanta, ran into former Roland Garros finalist Sara Errani and lost 7-6 (1), 2-6, 6-0. Likewise, Madison Brengle, a 25-year-old from Delaware, faced 2011 US Open winner Samantha Stosur and went down 6-1, 6-3.

Perhaps the most interesting (and refreshing) postmatch analysis came from 17-year-old Frances Tiafoe, who was making his main-draw debut as a professional. After losing to Martin Klizan 6-2, 6-1, 6-4, he said he had a blast.

"I need to get a lot better," he said, drawing laughter from reporters. "There are some things I need to work on, and obviously I need to get better to be playing at his level or higher."

So as the sun began to sink Monday, here's where things stood regarding the American contingent: With Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens playing on Court Suzanne Lenglen, the overall U.S. record was 1-9, so make that 2-10. On Tuesday, Varvara Lepchenko and Madison Keys tangle, so that makes it a guaranteed 3-11. That leaves 11 first-round matches to play, including one by No. 1 seed Serena Williams.

After Querrey won the third set 6-0 and Coric spent a lengthy period prone on the court getting his left calf worked on by an ATP World Tour trainer, it was realistic to wonder if Querrey would creep back into the match. But Coric, a likable Croatian who has been compared to a young Novak Djokovic, was firm in closing it out.

Maybe Querrey shouldn't have practiced with Coric twice when they were in Nice.

Things doubtless will get better in a few weeks, Querrey was told, when the players make the transition to American-friendly grass from clay.

"It's got to, right?" Querrey said, smiling.

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