Taylor Fritz proves again at Monte-Carlo Masters that Americans are allergic to clay

Fritz was bounced out in the first round of Monte-Carlo.
Mateo Villalba/GettyImages

For many years, Taylor Fritz has consistently been ranked as the top American player on the ATP tour. For a short time in 2023, Frances Tiafoe replaced him in the rankings, but for the most part, Fritz has led the way. He is a good player with an excellent ability to move around the court and hit with pace. But in the first round of the Monte-Carlo Masters, he proved again his kryptonite, like almost all American players, is clay.

The last American man to win the French Open, for instance, was Andre Agassi in the last century. He won in 1999. While Rafael Nadal has dominated the major since 2005, he was not playing professional tennis when Agassi won the Grand Slam. The last time an American man won in Monte-Carlo was Hugh Stewart in 1956. Agassi was the last time an American man won the Masters 1000 Italian Open in 2002 and the same could said of the Masters 1000 Madrid Open.

The point is that while American men's tennis used to be among the best in the sport, the group - or even a single player - is not a constant in the ATP top 10 because American men lack versatility in their games. It's all power with little touch. One needs to understand nuance in order to do well on clay and Americans do not have that understanding.

Taylor Fritz and other Americans simply can't win at a high level on clay

The question is why? Sure, there are not clay courts on every corner in the United States, but if one has committed themselves to a life of playing professional tennis and wants to reach the top five, one needs a well-rounded game and that includes, obviously, the ability to constantly be a danger on one of the three surfaces of tennis.

Fritz's record on clay is 36-30. Tiafoe is 20-15 and that includes a decent run at the Houston Open over the past week when many of the top clay players were already in Europe getting ready for Monte-Carlo. Maybe a win on clay here or there is good for the psyche, but when put to the test against other great players, Americans have a recent history of failing on the surface.

Taylor Fritz was bounced out of Monte-Carlo by unseeded Lorenzo Musetti 6-4 6-4. The match was not even as close as the score might imply. Until an American men's player chooses to become better balanced, American tennis fans can forget a native son becoming a constant in the top five on the ATP tour anytime soon.

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