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Dark day but bright hopes for American tennis at U.S. Open

By Steve Keating

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Brilliant sunshine was unable to hide a dark day for American men at the U.S. Open on Tuesday as five home grown hopes packed their bags and headed for the exits.

Eight American men took the courts at the sprawling U.S. National Tennis Center in Queens with just three left standing, including 13th seed John Isner who was a 7-6 (5) 6-2 7-6 (2) winner over compatriot Marcos Giron.

Sam Querrey and wildcard Tim Smyczek also advanced, though Jack Sock, Wayne Odesnik, Wimbledon junior champion Noah Rubin and 17-year-old Jared Donaldson, making his professional debut, were all bundled out at Flushing Meadows.

The lamentable state of American men's tennis is always a hot topic at the year's final grand slam as the glory days of Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras fade, while Andy Roddick was the last American man to lift the trophy, in 2003.

"It's not the greatest its been," shrugged Isner, the top ranked American after his win. "I try not to focus on some of the negative things that people say about American tennis.

"I know I get the brunt of it a lot because if I win and play well it's because I have a big serve and I can hit my forehand pretty well and that's it.

"But if I lose, it's only because that's all I can do. So, I mean, sometimes I feel like I can't win no matter what."

If the 29-year-old Isner is going to make any noise at the year's final grand slam he will have to rely on his booming serve as he did on Tuesday blasting 26 aces past Giron.

Fellow big hitter Querrey blasted 30 aces to beat Argentine Maximo Gonzalez 6-2 4-6 6-4 4-6 6-3 while Smyczek advanced with a 4-6 6-3 6-2 7-6 (5) win over Serb qualifier Filip Krajinovic.

That was the only success for the American men on Tuesday.

Odesnik was swept aside by 10th seed Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-2 6-4 6-2, Rubin was beaten 6-4 6-3 6-0 by Argentine Federico Delbonis while Donaldson lost to 20th-seed Gael Monfils 6-4 6-2 6-4.

Donaldson and Rubin, however, were keen on using their first U.S. Open experience to try to pick up the fallen torch.

"I use it as maybe motivation," said Donaldson.

"I think what people want, people who follow tennis, what people in this country want is a person contending for grand slams, someone they can get behind saying, he has a chance at the Australian, a chance at the French, a chance at Wimbledon and a chance to win here.

"I think it's tough. I think tennis is maybe now at the highest level its ever been."

The news, however, was much brighter on the women's side of the draw where world number one and five-time champion Serena Williams led a parade of Americans into the second round with a 6-3 6-1 decision over compatriot Taylor Townsend.

"There are so many great young players, Taylor is so incredibly talented," said Williams. "I really love that there so many wonderful Americans.

"There's a 15-year-old that won today ... that's just so awesome. We have just an amazing future, we have so much to look forward to."

The 15-year-old Catherine Bellis had earlier provided the biggest jolt in the U.S. Open's first round by upsetting 12th seed Dominika Cibulkova 6-1 4-6 6-4 and she was one of nine of the 13 American women playing on Tuesday to advance.

Playing on the secondary Court Six, Bellis became the youngest female player to win a match at the U.S. Open since Anna Kournikova in 1996.

"I went into the match thinking it was going to be such a great experience," said Bellis.

"But I never thought I would come out on top winning. I'm still in shock about that match."

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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