After top-ranked American John Isner and former US Open junior champion Jack Sock lost on Saturday, it left unheralded Tim Smyczek as the only remaining national hope.
The 109th-ranked Smyczek faced Spain's Marcel Granollers, ranked No. 43, on Sunday. Granollers won the first set, then Smyczek bounced back to take the next two, including a 6-0 score in the third.
But Granollers stood his ground, won the fourth set, trailed 4-1 in the fifth, rallied to get back in it, then delivered the fateful blow at 5-5 in the fifth, breaking Smyczek and then serving out the match. Final score: 6-4, 4-6, 0-6, 6-3, 7-5, Granollers.
Here is how it ended:
After the match, Smyczek admitted he got nervous at the end:
#Smyczek reflective in press, said he got nervy at end of 5th and hasn't had goosebumps like that in a match so many times before #usopen
This is, of course, just another symptom of the ongoing malady of poor performances from US men's tennis in recent years. No American man reached the fourth round of any Grand Slam in 2013, and this year also featured a week without one in the top 20 of the ATP rankings for the first time in the 40-year history of those.
The crowd was boisterously in Smyczek's corner — somewhere, Isner is stewing — and he thanked the crowd after the match.
Smyczek was not necessarily expected to win — look at the rankings — and his individual effort in the tournament was a success; he had never been past the second round at any Slam. But it just serves to illustrate the utter irrelevance of US men's tennis at the moment. Even the US Open's own Twitter feed seemed to be more focused on the other angle to the story:
Don't lose too much sleep over it. Granollers has to face world No. 1 Novak Djokovic next. Kudos to Smyczek for fighting to the end, and for giving us something to remember him by from this tournament other than this.