PARIS (AP) — Who said Americans can’t play on clay? Not Tommy Paul, for sure.
The 18-year-old Paul won the first all-American boys’ final at the French Open with a 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-2 defeat of second-seeded Taylor Fritz on Saturday.
Paul, who learned his trade on the slow surface, became the sixth American boy to win the junior title in Paris. Among them was John McEnroe in 1977.
“Everyone says that U.S. tennis is bad on clay,” said Paul, who was playing his first junior tournament of the year at Roland Garros. “I would have to disagree.”
There was a third American player in the semifinals of the boys’ tournament this year, Michael Mmoh, who lost in straight sets to Paul.
“Right now I think that obviously we’re doing pretty well on the clay,” Paul said. “We are only getting better, I think.”
Paul, who trains in Boca Raton, Florida, has been spending most of the year on the pro circuit, winning two minor tournaments on clay in Spain and Italy in the buildup to Roland Garros. He lists clay as his favorite surface.
“When I first started playing tennis, I grew up just playing on clay,” he said. “The place I trained at only had clay courts, so I only practiced on clay. I got used to it fast. I have always liked clay my whole life, so coming out here on the red clay, it’s great. I like it a lot for my game.”
After winning the juniors title in Roland Garros, McEnroe never went on to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires — losing in the French Open final to Ivan Lendl in 1984. The last American man to triumph in Paris was Andre Agassi, 16 years ago.
In the girls’ tournament, Spaniard Paula Badosa Gibert clinched the title with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Anna Kalinskaya of Russia.
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