© Alex Smith/Memphis Open

American teens Taylor Fritz (18), Tommy Paul (18), Frances Tiafoe (18), Michael Mmoh (18) and Jared Donaldson (19) in Memphis.

Fritz and Tiafoe Among Five American Teens in Memphis

Future of American tennis on show in Memphis

A tournament record five American teenagers are competing in this year’s Memphis Open presented by ServiceMaster. Overall there are 13 Americans in the 28-player draw, the most in Memphis since 2010 when there were 14.

Taylor Fritz (18), Tommy Paul (18), Frances Tiafoe (18), Michael Mmoh (18) and Jared Donaldson (19) posed together in front of the Racquet Club’s Memphis Open 40th anniversary  tournament sign. Mmoh and Donaldson qualified on Sunday into the main draw. The other three players are wild cards.

The five American teenagers in the draw surpassed the previous tournament record of four in 1989. That foursome featured future Grand Slam tournament champions Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Jim Courier and Pete Sampras.

The last time an ATP World Tour tournament featured at least five American teenagers in the main draw was in Stratton Mountain in August 1989 when there were six teenagers: Agassi, Steve Bryan, Chang, Courier, Jared Palmer and Sampras.

For the two teenagers in action on Day 3, their Memphis debuts would end in the first round. Ryan Harrison posted a hard-fought come-from-behind victory over 18-year-old Tiafoe on Monday night. The 23 year old recovered from match point down to wrap up a 6-7(0), 7-6(8), 6-4.

While it was the first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting between the two, Tiafoe had come out on top on American hard courts once before against his 124th ranked opponent, in Winston-Salem qualifying last year. He dominated the first-set tiebreak without conceding a point in 51 minutes before holding to love to open the second. 

Players traded breaks before forcing the second-set tiebreak, in which Harrison saved a match point to force the decider. Tiafoe looked to have put the disappointment behind him when he broke for 1-0 in the third, but could not consolidate. 

Harrison drew level before his younger opponent threw in his first double fault of the match at the most inopportune time, when serving to stay in it. Harrison broke serve to convert on his first match point to end the two-and-a-half-hour battle.

Earlier, Donaldson fell in a battle of the qualifiers to Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 6-4. The 19 year old was unable to capitalise on any of the eight break points he brought up, while world No. 130 Nishioka made good on three of the seven chances he had. While this was the pair’s first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting, Nishioka had beaten his younger opponent in a Challenger event in Aptos last year.

In another all-American battle, fifth seed Denis Kudla scored a 6-4 6-2 win over Rajeev Ram in little under an hour. Kudla was impressive on serve, sending down five aces and winning 79 per cent of points on his first serve. He never faced a break point, while he converted on three of his five opportunities against the world No. 88.

Big-serving Australian Sam Groth was the highest-seeded casualty after falling narrowly, 7-6(4), 7-6(2) to Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko in one hour and 54 minutes. Groth thumped 15 aces and neither player dropped serve in what was their first meeting.

Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin landed a 6-4, 7-6(4) win over Italian Luca Vanni. The Kazakh saved the three break points he faced and converted on his sole break point opportunity. 

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