Tommy Paul fails to explain recent clay-court success for Americans

Paul is into the semifinals of the Italian Open.
Giampiero Sposito/GettyImages

Whether Tommy Paul continues his successful run at the Italian Masters or not, he has still done something he had never done before. Never had Paul made the semifinals at a Masters 1000 clay-court event until the Rome Masters. This should give him some confidence heading into the French Open in late May.

No American man, especially, is going to be among the favorites at Roland Garros. Only two Americans have won a tournament on European clay since 2011. Neither of those victories was at a high-level event. That does not mean that Paul, Taylor Fritz, or Ben Shelton cannot win on European clay, but no one expects them to.

Americans overall have had a lot of success in Rome. Paul made the semis as did Danielle Collins and Coco Gauff on the women's side. Fritz made the quarterfinals. Before Rome, seeing American players get bounced out early in clay court events was not unusual. Fritz has had more success recently, but until Rome, he was the only American man truly a threat to win a European tournament.

Tommy Paul has been a success on clay in Rome but he is unsure why

After Paul defeated Hubert Hurkacz in the quarterfinals, he was asked in his post-match press conference what might suddenly be different on clay. Paul had no answer other than to say he had a bit more time to prepare for European clay in 2024 because he could not play any immediate events after hurting his ankle in March at the Miami Masters.

Paul told the media, "For me, it’s kind of just having more experience on the clay. I got a pretty good training block before coming over here. I’m feeling more comfortable than I probably ever have. I actually grew up playing on clay. That was all I played on, even before going to play hard court tournaments...I mean, I’m comfortable on it. I’m really enjoying my time on it right now. But I don’t know if there’s one factor for all of us. I’m not sure."

Next. French Open Wildcards. French Open wildcards get it right with Halep and wrong with Thiem. light

Paul even added while smiling that the clay he grew up playing on was green clay and not the red clay of Europe. The bounces would have been more irregular on green clay than on European clay.

Whatever the reason, and no matter how Tommy Paul finishes the Rome Masters, he could make inroads in Paris. He just needs to control his serve a lot better. There were 13 breaks of service combined in his quarterfinal match with Hurkacz. Against a better player than Hurkacz, such as Alexander Zverev or Jannik Sinner, Paul would have been lucky to win a set.

More tennis news and analysis