From early round upsets to career-best Grand Slam advancements, several of the 2021 US Open’s notable wins and runs came from past players of the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship.
Players who participated in Houston in 2019 combined for 12 singles wins in New York and a handful were the center of the upset storylines in the opening matches.
American fan favorites Taylor Fritz and Mackenzie McDonald were responsible for two seeds’ early exits, where Fritz knocked off No. 14 seed Alex de Minaur and McDonald defeated No. 27 seed David Goffin. In a rematch of the 2019 Houston quarterfinals, US Open qualifier Henri Laaksonen grabbed the upper hand over 2019 US Clay champion and No. 16 seed Cristian Garin to march his way to the round of 32.
Joining 2016 Houston participant Diego Schwartzman in the round of 16 included a pair of familiar faces in Americans Reilly Opelka and Frances Tiafoe. Opelka did not lose a set on his way to the Round of 16, his best career finish at a Major. The 24-year-old reached the top 25 rankings for the first time August 16 following a run to the final at the ATP Masters 1000 in Toronto and currently holds a career-high ranking of No. 24 on the ATP Tour.
Following victories in the first two rounds, including a four-set win over two-time Houston alum Guido Pella, Tiafoe faced No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev, who recently was a finalist at the ATP Masters 1000 in Cincinnati. Feeding off the fans and the countless “Let’s go, Frances” chants, the American managed to pull off the upset in five sets to climb to his second consecutive Round of 16 appearance at the US Open.
“I love these matches. This is why you work, why you put the time in—to play the best guys in the world,” Tiafoe told USOpen.org. “These are the matches I get up for. These are the matches I’m not worried about playing great tennis. I just want these guys. I want to put it on my resumé. I came out today saying, ‘I’m going to beat him.’ I don’t fear any of these guys.”
Not only did Houston alums have singles success at the US Open, but a handful of past US Clay players dominated doubles play. Two-time Houston alum Marcel Granollers & 2017 Houston doubles champion Horacio Zeballos moved to the quarterfinals in New York after clinching the doubles title at the ATP Masters 1000 in Cincinnati a few weeks earlier.
Defeating six-time Houston champions Bob & Mike Bryan on their way to a semifinal run at the 2015 US Open, Steve Johnson & Sam Querrey, who have a combined 18 appearances in Houston, eyed similar success as wildcards in 2021. Johnson, who was a doubles finalist with partner Austin Krajicek at the ATP Masters 1000 in Cincinnati, coasted with Querrey past two seeded doubles duos to advance to their second US Open semifinal as a team. Querrey reached his second doubles semifinal at a Major in the last three years, also reaching the final four at the 2019 Australian Open with seven-time Houston player Ryan Harrison.
“When we get so caught up in the X's and O's, we overthink things sometimes,” Johnson told USOpen.org. “So for us, when we see the ball and hit the ball, it may not be the perfect strategy, but on returns or how we like to play on our serve, we feel like if we do what we need to do, we'll have a good chance to win.”
The 2022 Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship takes place April 2-10 at the River Oaks Country Club. West Grandstand season packages go on sale November 1 while daily tickets and the Champ Pass for finals weekend go on sale December 12.