Tommy Paul is flying under the radar all the way to the Italian Open semifinals

Paul's fellow Americans Taylor Fritz, Coco Gauff, and Danielle Collins have grabbed the headlines
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Tommy Paul has advanced into the Italian Open semifinals. Paul's name has only casually been mentioned through the 10+ days of action in Rome. American fans have heard much more about Taylor also known as "Claylor" Fritz, Coco Gauff, and Danielle Collins.

However, Paul should be in the conversation because he took out the defending champion Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in Wednesday's Round of 16 action. Paul has such an easygoing and fun-loving demeanor that his reaction to that one-sided win was to explain how handily Medvedev beat him the last time they met. Paul gives the impression that being the underdog or slightly distanced from the spotlight is more than okay with him.

Hubert Hurckacz was his opponent in the quarterfinals. Paul experienced ups and downs with his service games but prevailed in three sets. Paul and fellow American Ben Shelton are the last American men standing. Shelton, partnered with Kazahkstanian player Alexander Bublik, is in the men's doubles semifinals. It is worth noting that before Wednesday, Paul had never beaten a Top 20 player on clay, and in two days, he has now beaten two.

Tommy Paul is trying to put American men back on clay court map

Paul is in esteemed clay court company in the Italian Open semifinals. He awaits the winner of the Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nicolas Jarry quarterfinal match. Alexander Zverev took out Taylor Fritz on the opposite side of the draw in yesterday's quarterfinals. Tsitsipas is a former French Open finalist, and Zverev is a three-time French Open semifinalist. If there was a dictionary entry for men who should win a clay court Grand Slam but have not yet, both Tsitsipas and Zverev's names would be included.

Should Paul get to the Italian Open, he would be the first American in a generation to do so. Andre Agassi was the last American Italian Open champion in 2002. Agassi was also the last American man to win the French Open in 1999. American men continue to knock on the door and threaten to end the drought at Masters 1000 and Grand Slam clay tournaments. Could Tommy Paul, whose two ATP singles titles are Masters 250 hardcourt tournaments, be the player to do it once and for all in Rome?

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