The 2019 U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship (April 8-14) is an ATP 250 Event and the only clay court tournament on the ATP calendar that takes place in the United States of America.
Omaha staged the first edition in 1910 and, after being played in a variety of locations afterwards, it moved to its present home in Houston in 2001.
It doesn’t often attract the top players but there have been five American champions in the last eight years, R Sweeting, John Isner, Jack Sock, and Steve Johnson (twice). The 2017 and 2018 champion Johnson is the number one seed this year.
Check out our analysis of the draw and free tips for the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship.
Steve Johnson was only the sixth seed when winning the 2018 renewal, having been the fourth seed when also victorious in 2017. In 2018, he beat fellow Americans Ernesto Escobedo, Frances Tiafoe, John Isner, Taylor Fritz, and Tennys Sandgren to win the title.
It’s fair to say that Johnson hasn’t been in the greatest of form so far this season but a return to clay courts in an event he clearly loves could easily spark him back into life. He’s also already beaten likely second-round opponent Paolo Lorenzi at Delray Beach earlier this season and he should be too good for the much lower-ranked opponents in his quarter.
If there’s to be a new American name on the trophy this year it could be Reilly Opelka. The 21-year-old is up to number fifty-six in the world rankings after winning this season’s New York Open, and he has also taken some notable scalps so far this year including that of former champion John Isner. He’s not the most consistent player but, at 6 feet 11 inches, he can boom down serves with the best of them.
Another young American who has also already beaten John Isner this season is Taylor Fritz and he’s capable of rattling a few higher-ranked cages on his day. However, having already been beaten by Steve Johnson at this season’s BNP Paribas Open, he has less potential to reach the final than Opelka.
The third quarter features four Americans including eighth seed Sam Querrey, Bjorn Fratangelo, and Noah Rubin, but it’s last year’s runner-up Tennys Sandgren that catches the eye. Admittedly, he’s not been in the best of form recently but did beat number-three seed Cameron Norrie in the ASB Classic Final in January and he could meet him again in the second round.
The fact that Jeremy Chardy is the second seed highlights just how weak this tournament is, as the 32-year-old Frenchman hasn’t made it past the last-32 in any of his last five tournaments. That suggests he’s vulnerable here and this could be a chance for another young American Mackenzie McDonald to take a further step up the ladder.
The 23-year-old’s biggest scalp this year is Juan Marin Del Potro, and he’s also beaten Reilly Opelka. He’s also reached the quarter-finals at Delray Beach and the semi-finals at Mexico. The last two players to beat him where Tsitsipas and Medvedev and he’ll meet no players of that calibre here.
Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship Verdict
This is a tournament in which the home players have a great record this decade and it could pay to stick with that game plan. The top-half of the draw could result in an interesting clash between reigning champion Johnson and young-pretender Reilly Opelka. As tennis is taking a shift towards the next generation, Opelka is just preferred.
There could also be an all-American semi-final in the bottom-half of the draw, where last year’s beaten finalist Tennys Sandgren may get his season back on track. However, the player in form in the bottom-half looks to be Mackenzie McDonald and, after being beaten by top-20 players in his last two events, he’s given a chance to impress in what is a much weaker field.