Taylor Fritz cannot break American curse on clay at BMW Open

Only two Americans have won a European clay court title since 2010.
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Both Taylor Fritz and Jan-Lennard Struff had to be nervous entering the final of the BMW Open on Sunday. Fritz was trying to be the first American to win a tournament on European clay since 2021. Struff was trying to win his first event ever during his professional tennis life. But if Struff was nervous, he certainly did not show it.

A late break in the first set by Struff got him the early lead and the German followed that with an early break in the second set as well. In fact, from late in the first set to early in the second, Struff won five straight games. That ultimately was the difference in the match.

Fritz did not go away quietly, though, and he should be commended for how well he did during the clay-court tournament. Fritz, like most American men, is not good on the surface. The only current American men's player to have won a title on European clay was Sebastian Korda in 2021. Korda's victory felt a bit strange even then as he normally is not good on the surface. Fritz at least had a winning record on clay entering the BMW Open, but only barely.

Jan-Lennard Struff defeats Taylor Fritz in BMW Open final

Fritz does move well enough to win on clay, but as Americans do not grow up playing on the surface very much, they do not have a good chance to learn the nuance it takes to win at a high level on clay until they are playing on either the Challenger circuit or on the ATP tour. By that time, trying to consistently win on clay is too late; the European and South American players are too advanced for them.

Though Fritz fell in two straight sets - 7-5 6-3 - thanks to three games where he could not hold serve (Fritz was broken four times total but did get one of them back), he did at least imply he might be dangerous in the early round of the French Open. He will not be expected to win the next major, obviously, but maybe he gives American tennis fans their best chance of hope. Fritz has never made it past the third round at Roland Garros, however.

Meanwhile, Jan-Lennard Struff should gain a lot of confidence after winning his first tournament. He has made the fourth round at the French Open twice, his best showing in any Grand Slam. He won't be a favorite either, but maybe he will feel as if he should be and sometimes that is all a player needs.

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