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A Closer Look At The Seeded Americans Hoping For Glory On Clay At French Open

By Todd Kortemeier | Sept. 27, 2020, 9 a.m. (ET)

Serena Williams plays a backhand during her ladies singles first round match against Kurumi Nara of Japan at the 2019 French Open on May 30, 2019 in Paris.


Even setting aside the pandemic-induced rescheduling from summer to fall, this year’s French Open will look a bit different. 

Some of the biggest names have withdrawn, from Roger Federer on the men’s side to 2019 champ Ashleigh Barty and recent US Open winner Naomi Osaka on the women’s side. There’s now a retractable roof over Court Philippe Chatrier, and floodlights on the main stadium courts will allow for the first night matches at Roland Garros. 

But there will be some familiar sights. Unlike the US Open, which wrapped up on Sept. 13, a limited amount of fans will be allowed into matches. After sitting out the US Open, Rafa Nadal will be in Paris in pursuit of a record-extending 13th French Open title. And of course, the U.S. contingent will be represented with plenty of star power.

The women’s field is especially deep, as seven Americans earned one of 32 seeded places. Two men earned seeds, as did two all-American doubles teams.

Here’s a look at all 11 of them — wheelchair tennis seeds are forthcoming — before they hit the clay this weekend.

Sofia Kenin – No. 4
Much has changed for the 21-year-old Kenin since she last played at Roland Garros in 2019. Kenin then was the unseeded player who upset Serena Williams in the third round to make the fourth round at a Grand Slam for the first time ever. The 2014 Youth Olympian is now an Australian Open champion and the No. 6 player in the world. 

Serena Williams – No. 6
Williams fell just short at the US Open in her bid to tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. She’ll try again at the French Open, but that happens to be the Grand Slam that’s given her the most trouble. Williams has three career titles at Roland Garros — outstanding for most players, but comparatively few in Williams’ legendary career. The four-time Olympic gold medalist last made a final at Roland Garros in 2016.

Madison Keys – No. 13
Keys has had to endure a frustrating 2020, making the third round at the Australian Open but suffering an upset straight-set loss. Then after a long layoff due to the pandemic, she lost her opening match of the Western & Southern Open, then was forced to withdraw in the third round of the US Open with a neck injury. The 2016 Olympian is still looking for her first Grand Slam title and has advanced to at least the quarterfinals at the last two French Opens.

Alison Riske – No. 20
Riske started 2020 with a run to the fourth round at the Australian Open, giving her a final 16 appearance in three of the four Grand Slams. Now she’ll aim to make it four at the French Open. However, the 30-year-old has been eliminated in the first round at Roland Garros in the last five tournaments, and her best finish to date was the third round in 2014. Seeded 13th at the US Open, Riske lost in an upset to fellow American Ann Li in the second round.

Jennifer Brady – No. 22
Brady caused quite a stir at the US Open, advancing to the semifinals for the first time at a Grand Slam before losing to eventual champion Naomi Osaka of Japan. That result has Brady ranked a career-best 25th in the world and looking to improve on her second-round finishes at Roland Garros in 2018 and 2019.

Amanda Anisimova – No. 26
Anisimova made headlines at Roland Garros in 2019 by becoming the tournament’s youngest semifinalist in 13 years. At 17 years old and unseeded, she upset No. 3 Simona Halep of Romania to make the semis, and pushed eventual champion Ashleigh Barty of Australia to a third set. Now 19, Anisimova is coming off a run to the third round at Flushing Meadows.

Sloane Stephens – No. 30
Stephens appeared to be on the verge of an upset at the US Open after winning the first set against rival Serena Williams in their hotly anticipated third-round match. But Williams then came back to win and end Stephens’ hope for a second US Open title. The Olympian has had better luck of late at Roland Garros, making the final in 2018 and the quarters in 2019.

John Isner serves during the mens singles fourth round match against Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina at the 2018 French Open on June 4, 2018 in Paris.

John Isner – No. 22
The veteran Isner hasn’t played at Roland Garros since 2018, when he made it to the fourth round for the third time in his career. Now the hard-serving Isner will look to rebound from a disappointing US Open in which he suffered a first-round upset loss to unseeded American Steve Johnson.

Taylor Fritz – No. 28
The 22-year-old Fritz has tied his career best by making the third round at this year’s Australian Open and US Open. He was the runner-up at the 2015 boys’ French Open and made his senior debut at the tournament the next year. 

Sofia Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands – No. 9
Kenin has one of the world’s most experienced doubles partners in Mattek-Sands, an Olympic gold medalist and former world No. 1. Mattek-Sands is a two-time French Open champion in doubles, winning with partner Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic in 2015 and 2017. Kenin and Mattek-Sands have won one tournament title together, at the China Open in 2019.

Coco Gauff and Caty McNally – No. 16
The teenage team nicknamed McCoco won the junior title at the 2018 US Open, and then hit the ground running in their first WTA event together by winning the 2019 Citi Open. Gauff, 16, and McNally, 18, will be making their first French Open appearance together, but earlier this year they made it to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open as an unseeded team. 

Todd Kortemeier

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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