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Frances Tiafoe among young Americans coming of age in Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) More than 13 years after Andy Roddick won the 2003 U.S. Open, the last time an American man triumphed at a Grand Slam, the future of U.S. men’s tennis appears bright.

The next generation of young players, all aged between 18 and 20, is starting to emerge and showing enough promise at this year’s Australian Open to suggest they may be on the cusp of a breakthrough.

Seven made the main draw at Melbourne Park and three were still in contention after the first round.

Frances Tiafoe, who turns 19 on Friday, defeated Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-2 on Tuesday, while 20-year-old Ernesto Escobedo beat Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1. They joined 20-year-old Noah Rubin, who won his opener a day earlier to set up a second-round match against Roger Federer.

The others failed to advance, but not before serving notice to the tour’s old guard.

Reilly Opelka, 19, lost a tight five-setter to 11th-seeded David Goffin, while Jared Donaldson, 20, lost to Brazil’s Rogerio Dutra Silva after leading two sets to none. Taylor Fritz and Michael Mmoh, both 19, each put up good fights in defeats to veterans Gilles Muller and Gilles Simon, respectively.

“We’re all really supportive of each other and happy to see all of us doing so well,” Tiafoe said. “Hopefully we can keep going and not stop now.”

Much has been expected of Tiafoe, the son of immigrants from Sierra Leone, since he won the Orange Bowl at age 15, the youngest champion in the prestigious 18-and-under tournament’s history.

Tiafoe just missed out on a career-defining win at last year’s U.S. Open, where as a wild card, he led the long-time top-ranked U.S. player, John Isner, by two sets to none before the match slipped away. It was a heartbreaking loss, but one Tiafoe learned from.

“I was like, the next opportunity I’m definitely going to take it,” he said after his first-round win on Tuesday, flashing a wide grin. “Now, getting through relatively comfortable today means a lot. … I really feel like I belong now.”

He next plays another 19-year-old, his close friend, Alexander Zverev of Germany.

Both Opelka and Donaldson, meanwhile, got their own tastes of Grand Slam agony in Melbourne.

Opelka, a 6-foot-11 (2.11 meter) former Wimbledon junior champion with a booming serve and whip-like forehand, had two break points to go up 4-2 in the fifth set against Goffin, but couldn’t convert either and ultimately lost 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

Opelka had never before played a five-set match and was making his debut in the singles main draw of a Grand Slam. Yet he showed grit – and no hint of nerves – deep into the fifth set against a seasoned pro like Goffin, even as he started to cramp and struggled to move.

“I’ve played some guys in the top 10 before so I wasn’t uncomfortable,” he said. “With the way I play, hopefully it really shouldn’t matter who’s on the other side of the net.”

Donaldson’s loss was less expected. The Rhode Island native made a stunning run to the third round of last year’s U.S. Open, upsetting the 12th-seeded Goffin and Viktor Troicki, a former top-20 player.

And he was well on his way to a commanding win over Dutra Silva before the Brazilian stormed back for a 3-6, 0-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory.

“Losses like this really define your character,” he said. “So I can be upset and sulk about it or I can get back on the practice court and keep working hard and get better so matches like that don’t happen again.”

Djokovic beats Delbonis in third round at Miami Open

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Novak Djokovic squandered a second-set lead but regrouped to beat Federico Delbonis 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 Sunday in the third round of the Miami Open.

Djokovic appeared on his way to an easy victory when he led 3-1 in the second set, but he dropped serve twice in a row. He won a succession of long rallies in the final set and swept the last five games.

The top-ranked Djokovic is trying for his seventh title in the tournament, which moved this year to the Miami Dolphins’ stadium complex.

Defending champion John Isner was broken in the first game but he held the rest of the way and hit 16 aces to beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-5, 7-6 (6).

Isner, now 33, won the biggest title of his career in the tournament a year ago. Seeded No. 7, he’ll next face No. 19 Kyle Edmund, who beat No. 12 Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-4.

In women’s play, Venus Williams reached the fourth round of the tournament for the 16th time with a 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 14 Daria Kasatkina, who never held serve.

Williams won the title in 1998, 1999 and 2001. She’s unseeded at Miami for the first time since 2012, but improved to 11-3 this year.

Williams next faces No. 2 Simona Halep, who outlasted Polona Hercog 5-7, 7-6 (1), 6-2.

“I was running like crazy for three hours,” Halep said. “If I keep doing this, I think I have a chance to be back No. 1.”

A loss Saturday by top-ranked Naomi Osaka opened the door for Halep to reclaim the top ranking if she reaches the final.

No. 25 Danielle Collins lost to Wang Yafan 7-5, 6-1.

John Isner advances to fourth round at Miami Open

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — John Isner was broken in the first game but held thereafter and hit 16 aces to beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-5, 7-6 (6) Sunday in the third round of the Miami Open.

Isner, now 33, won the biggest title of his career in the tournament a year ago. He is seeded seventh this year.

In women’s play, No. 25 Danielle Collins lost to Wang Yafan 7-5, 6-1.

Defending women’s champion Sloane Stephens was scheduled to play later Sunday, as was No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic on the men’s side.