TENNIS

Fritz loss ends hopes of late star-studded breakthrough | Wimbledon 2022

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Jhe impish smile of Colonel Sanders gazing down from KFC signage amid the high-end shops of the High Street is proof that even Wimbledon Village has not been entirely immune to the creeping Americanization of British culture in recent years. Funny how the tide has been turned at the All England Club just down the road, where the once-constant American presence at the Championships’ business end – save for the utterly exceptional reign of the Williams sisters – has been anything but sepia. memory over the past two decades.

In the early stages of the much-talked-about American takeover of Center Court on Wednesday, it seemed to be more or less the same. When Taylor Fritz was smashed in her first service game and quickly fell behind Rafael Nadal under overcast skies following Amanda Amanisova’s error-strewn capitulation to Simona Halep, it appeared the last remaining American players in either Wimbledon singles draw would be swept away without drama. fashion.

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That was until Fritz – the No. 1 American and one of three men to beat Nadal this year – launched a hearty fightback against the badly compromised and then appallingly resurgent Spaniard, but his eventual loss in a break tied in the fifth set after more than four hours finally extinguished hopes of a star-studded breakthrough in a competition where the Americans were largely reduced to an unthinkable afterthought role.

Andy Roddick’s abrupt retirement nearly a decade ago left the United States without an active men’s Grand Slam champion for the first time in 129 years since the establishment of what were then called the US National Championships. And while Venus and Serena Williams have combined for a dozen of their 30 major singles championships at Wimbledon – and 122 WTA titles in total – the hand twist on their successor on the women’s side has persisted even despite Sloane’s one-off successes. Stephens and Sophie Kenin.

Center Court’s centenary celebrations on Middle Sunday were a stark reminder of how the United States once pumped the Wimbledon champions with a consistency taken for granted, a who’s who that includes only Pete Sampras, Lindsay Davenport, Andre Agassi , Chris Evert, John McEnroe, Billie Jean King, Jimmy Connors, Martina Navratilova, Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith.

Anisimova’s direct loss in the co-main event left only Fritz, the 24-year-old Californian in the form of his life who was one of four Americans to reach the last 16 of the men’s draw – the most to Wimbledon since 1999 and the biggest slam since the US Open 2011.

Pete Sampras was one of the regular winners for the United States at Wimbledon during the Open days. Photograph: Dave Caulkin/AP

Fritz’s progress was the culmination of a purple smudge for American players at these championships, where the American presence in the men’s half of things hasn’t been felt so intensely since the days of Sampras, Agassi, Jim Courier and Todd Martin.

There was crowd-pleaser Frances Tiafoe, the No. 28 in the world, who made it to the fourth round and was set to play a second career major quarter-final before falling awfully short in a five-game slugfest. sets of 4 hours 36 minutes with the Belgian. David Gofin. Also Tommy Paul, ranked 32nd in his career on his Wimbledon debut, who advanced to the round of 16 before falling to Cameron Norrie.

And let’s not forget the rare “Let’s go Brandon” chants that dotted center court during Brandon Nakashima’s five-set loss to Nick Kyrgios on July 4 – a coded vulgarity (link) among Trump supporters – which offered an unexpected touch of Maga spice to the proceedings.

“I think we send the message that we have a lot of depth and there are a lot of strong players coming in, constantly improving,” Fritz said after Saturday’s third-round win over Alex Molcan. “I guess we don’t necessarily have all the attention because we don’t have a current Grand Slam champion, a current guy who is one, two, three in the world, but we have six or seven guys who are in the Top 40 who are all young.

“Four guys in the round of 16, and we could have more. We have a lot of depth and we have a lot of guys who are constantly improving. Repelling his fierce opponent with searing serves and forehands on a bright orange racquet, Fritz’s first career victory against a top-five opponent at a major tournament appeared within reach when Nadal called a physio for treatment while he was posed and it appeared even his box was ready for him to cut his losses.

But the greatest competitor the sport has ever known has lived up to the towering myth of its creation. He wanted the deal in a fifth set, then in a tiebreaker following a nervous exchange of broken service games, a jaw-dropping stretch dotted with points of white articulation that put the crowd of center court capacity at his feet as David Beckham gnawed. her nails in the royal box.

From there, Fritz could only look on as a potential date with another Grand Slam semi-finalist for the first time in Friday’s last four – and as clear a path to a first major final as he could ever see. – vanished into the gray of the evening. And what could have been his iconic victory ended as another chapter in the heavy tome of Nadal’s brilliance.

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