Photo courtesy of AP
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — It’s been almost two full decades since this many U.S. men reached Week 2 at the Australian Open.
And while that group in 2004 included a couple of Grand Slam champions in Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick, everything is all so new for the quartet there this time: Tommy Paul, who is 25; J.J. Wolf, 24; Sebastian Korda, 22; and Ben Shelton, 20, are all about to make their fourth-round debuts at Melbourne Park.
It must feel very much like a chance for a career-defining result for them and other young men still in the bracket.
“I haven’t thought about it too much, honestly, because I just have that one-match-at-a-time mentality, but I think it’s hard for anyone to look past that. There’s been a lot of upsets,” the 67th-ranked Wolf, who played college tennis at Ohio State, said after eliminating lucky loser Michael Mmoh 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 in an all-American matchup on Saturday. “But upsets happen for a reason. A lot of people out here are good. It is a real opportunity.”
Wolf next plays yet another American, 89th-ranked Shelton, who won the NCAA title for the University of Florida as a sophomore last year, then turned pro. Using his passport to travel outside of the United States for the first time in his life, Shelton extended his stay in his Australian Open debut by defeating 113th-ranked Australian wild-card entry Alexei Popyrin 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-4.
Paul, who is ranked 35th, topped Californian Jenson Brooksby by a score of 6-1, 6-4, 6-3. Next for Paul will be 14th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut, who ended the exhausting run of Andy Murray by beating the three-time major champion 6-1, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 6-4.
That result, the last of the third round, left Novak Djokovic as the only player among the 16 remaining men who has won a Grand Slam title. Not only that, but the other 15 have participated in a combined total of one major final — No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas lost to Djokovic in the 2021 French Open final.
This is seen by most as a period of transition in men’s tennis, a chance for new faces to make themselves known.
Noting JJ Wolf’s Run at the Australian Open