The dark clouds that have hung over U.S. men's tennis for a while now lifted just a bit Thursday. Think of it mostly as the sun peeking through.
The highest-ranked U.S. male, big-serving, 6-foot-9 John Isner, cruised through to the third round and was joined there a short time later by the rebounding Sam Querrey. No. 13 Isner beat German Jan-Lennard Struff, 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-2. Unseeded Querrey, No. 57 and only the fifth-highest rated U.S. male player, beat a seeded player, Spain's No. 28 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Those rated between Isner and Querrey — Donald Young, Jack Sock and Steve Johnson — all have been eliminated. And by way of comparison, while the U.S. still has three male players left, Spain had six seeded.
That meant that three U.S. men, including Tim Smyczek, had survived through Thursday. Smyczek won't play his second round until Friday.
The good news for U.S. fans was that Isner and Querrey's victories demonstrate that the two most-veteran and proven members of a floundering ship are now playing well at the same time. Winning was one thing, doing so in straight sets another.
The bad news is that Isner will next play seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany, nine spots below him at No. 22, and then, with a win, probably will face No. 1 Novak Djokovic. The ideal result for the U.S. program would be if Isner ended up facing the player who had beaten Djokovic in the previous round. That would be Querrey, and that would be a ground-shaking upset.
Isner was thinking positive on behalf of his friend.
"You know, the way he [Querrey] played today … that's the way he played when he was in he top 20. He certainly has it in him, and it's great seeing him play well… If he can play like that [against Djokovic], it will be a good match."
Querrey said this was the best he has played all year, and struggled with reasons for his recent fall-off.
"I don't know," he said. "I can't put my finger on it. I'm not really sure.
"Health-wise, I'm 100% and feeling great. I have the whole year."
Querrey hit 30 aces in his first-round victory and 16 more against Garcia-Lopez.
The U.S. women, with the ever-present edge of the Williams sisters, still have four players in the running, including Venus and Serena, Varvara Lepchenko and Nicole Gibbs. The 15-year-old amateur sensation from Atherton, Calif., Catherine (CiCi) Bellis, went out in three sets Thursday in a match that was part of the daytime program and ended just before 10 p.m.
One of the U.S. women eliminated was Vania King, who was beaten on Ashe Stadium court by Serena Williams, 6-1, 6-0.
The main upset of the day was Ana Ivanovic's loss to the Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova, 7-5, 6-4. The Serb Ivanovic was seeded eighth.