PARIS -- At the completion of their junior title match, Tommy Paul and Taylor Fritz got together on Court 1 and proudly held up a U.S. flag. For good reason. Saturday was the first time in the history of the French Open that two Americans had played in the boys' final.
Much has been made of the U.S. drought in men's tennis. The highest-ranked U.S. male currently is No. 16 John Isner. No American male has won a Grand Slam or been ranked No. 1 since Andy Roddick more than a decade ago.
But there is reason for some hope that talent is developing again. In addition to Paul beating Fritz 7-6, 2-6, 6-2 on Saturday to become the fifth American to win the boys' title here, Noah Rubin won the junior title at Wimbledon last summer. Frances Tiafoe, who played Roland Garros as a junior last year, played in the main draw this year. And despite Saturday's loss, Fritz has moved up to become the top-ranked junior.
"I think people should be really excited," Fritz said. "I think a couple of us are going to do really well. But at the same time, there shouldn't be too much pressure put on us, because that's never a good thing.
"But I do think we are all going to become good players. We might have a next American player that's way up there."
After the match, the two friends sat next to each other, chatting good-naturedly about how much progress Fritz has made since first going to Boca Raton, Florida, to train with the USTA two years ago.
"When I first went there, there was like 16 kids there and I was the worst," Fritz said. "There were 16 Americans, and I couldn't beat anyone. I was the worst one there. I just remember realizing that and thinking, 'Wow, I'm not as good as I thought I was.' Then I just was working insanely hard."
He has improved tremendously, though he wasn't good enough to beat Paul on Saturday. Paul took a tight first set 7-6, then lost the second set 6-2. Paul said that after falling behind a break, he chose to save his energy for the third set, which he won handily 6-2.
Paul says clay is his best and favorite surface, mostly because he grew up playing on it in North Carolina.
"Everyone says that U.S. tennis is bad on clay. I would have to disagree," Paul said. "Right now, I think that obviously we're doing pretty well on the clay. We had two people in the finals, and Bjorn Fratangelo won it in 2011, so obviously we are not bad on clay. We are only getting better, I think."
And perhaps better at the pro level as well, though time will tell.
"I think all of us are cautious and not letting junior success get to our head, because we have seen what's happened in the past to a lot of Americans that people say will be the next big thing," Fritz said. "I think we have learned from those mistakes and we know to take it one step at a time. We are all just looking to slowly work our way up into the pros.
"Like I said before, we are going to all push each other, and I think that's one thing that the other generations didn't have. I think they didn't have several people that all were at the same level and all could make it."