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Who says Americans aren't patient on the red clay of Roland Garros?
On Tuesday, Jesse Witten, a 27-year-old from Naples, Fla., hung in there for 3 hours, 47 minutes to win his first-round of qualifying -- on his 11th match point.
|Can the towering Sam Querrey slide his way deep into the French Open draw?|
Witten took down Brazilian Marcos Daniel in a ludicrous 7-6 (2), 4-6, 17-15 match. The final set alone required 134 minutes.
Will Witten win two more qualifying matches and reach the main draw? He has only two career victories at the ATP level, but he's on a track for a main-draw match that could add to America's total at the French Open.
Many thanks for the terrific -- and largely thoughtful -- responses to ESPN.com's over-under contest for U.S. match wins in Paris.
Optimism (patriotism?) was the byword of your many guesses. Francisco S., who used the word "brave," had the biggest number, 26. Katie Aune of Chicago was right behind.
"I may be overly optimistic, but I say 25," she wrote. "Twelve for Serena/Venus combined and three for other American women. Eight for Roddick/Querrey/Isner combined and two for other American men.
"Hope I'm right and it will be a fun French Open!"
There was cynicism, too.
Khashayar Haghgouyan placed the over/under for U.S. wins at five.
George Schlesinger simply placed the number 10 in his subject line. Nick Orban, a Government and Politics major at the University of Maryland, is thinking the same way.
"My over/under pick is 10," he wrote. "Not holding out much hope this year for our beloved Americans."
Although a dozen readers weighed in with numbers in the low 20s, most predictions were in the teens. Through mid-Tuesday, the returns showed an average of 17.5 -- or 5.5 more wins than last year's American contingent achieved at Roland Garros.
Twenty-one-year-old Justin Fainter of Lexington, Va., was one of a handful to go with 18.
"I think it's high time someone at least gets to the quarters of the French whether it's Sam Querrey or Andy Roddick," he wrote (with a little grammatical assistance) at length. "I think Isner will give us some fun early in the draw with those aces and let's be honest he's a bit more patient than the guy who lost in the NCAA Finals a few years back. Venus looked good until the finals last week and Serena will always win a few rounds just because she's more competitive than the other women (and scarier). Hopefully Melanie Oudin can use her grit to get us a pair."
Gay Chung from San Francisco predicted 14.
"The Americans that are fit enough do not have the patience to work the points. The W Sisters have a good chance to go far in doubles, but their movement looked suspect last week. The slowness at RG will neutralize the power and speed of their shots. I think Querrey will go deepest this year on the men's side. I expect Serena to get to the third round. Venus may get sent packing early depending on the luck of the draw. This is one tournament where their Slam Champions' auras do not intimidate the opponents."
We even heard from the U.S. Tennis Association.
"Obviously I'm a little biased, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say we're going to see over 20 wins," wrote Andrew Labovitz, a communications associate. "I think Venus and Serena will each win at least four, and I think Roddick, Querrey and Isner will all reach at least the third round, with two of those winning a third match. And from the other eight players, and whoever gets through in qualifying, I think there'll be at least four first-round winners.
"It's a sunny outlook, I know, but I think this could be a surprisingly good year!"
The early returns have been encouraging for the United States. In addition to Witten, five other American men won their first-round qualifying match, including Ryan Harrison, who just turned 18. There was more good news when Taylor Dent and Robby Ginepri squeezed into the main draw when the final withdrawals were registered. So that's nine men and eight women in the main draw, with five men still alive in qualifying and seven women, including Fed Cup hero Bethanie Mattek-Sands, set to play first-round matches.
We heard about Dent on Monday afternoon from Patrick Rash.
"Don't feel bad I got the jump on you," Rash wrote. "He is my best friend. Ha. I'll go with 16."
Lilas Pratt did not submit a number, asking this question: "Do we get to count the doubles? After all, the Bryan brothers, the Williams sisters and the Isner/Querrey tandem are all likely to do very well in Paris -- regardless of what the singles looks like. Just wondering."
Great question, Lilas, but no. We're going with singles, although those three teams could net more than a dozen wins. Send me a quick note, and we'll extend the deadline just for you.
Corey Nunlist is in for 21.
"Of course," he wrote, "it might be a better idea to wait until the draw comes out, but let the [electronic] record show my eagerness to participate. Can't wait to see what I win; perhaps an all-expenses paid trip to the Wimbledon final?"
Uh, we were thinking of a nice item from the Roland Garros gift shop. We'll see how high the accounting wizards from the Worldwide Leader in Sports are willing to go. ESPN.com will follow the progress of the Americans for the next two weeks in Paris starting Friday.
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.