Players to Watch US Clay 2024

Take a deeper dive into the athletes vying for the coveted US Clay titles this year:

U.S., Argentina in Top Four

The top four seeds include a pair of American stars and Argentine clay court specialists: No. 1 Ben Shelton (USA), No. 2 Tomas Martin Etcheverry (Argentina), No. 3 Frances Tiafoe (USA) and No. 4 Francisco Cerundolo (Argentina). Each of the top four seeds have a first round bye.


Shelton Family Affair

Shelton, 21, enters Houston as the top seed for the second time this season. A 2023 U.S. Open semifinalist, Shelton will look to follow in the footsteps of his father, Bryan, who himself was a River Oaks champion in 1992.


Tiafoe Eyes Repeat Title

Tiafoe, 26, returns to Houston in the attempt to to win back-to-back titles here since Steve Johnson won in 2017-2018. Last year, Tiafoe defeated Etcheverry to claim his second career title.


Changing American Guard

In the wake of retirements among the outgoing generation of American players -  John Isner, Steve Johnson, Jack Sock and Sam Querrey - there is a noticeable changing of the guard this year. The American quartet achieved a combined five titles, five finals and 42 appearances in Houston throughout their career. Americans Denis Kudla (seven appearances) and Tiafoe (six appearances) have the longest tenure at River Oaks in the 2024 field.

 

Global Meets Local

The 2024 field highlights a blend of the sport’s global footprint and homegrown talent. There are 21 different countries represented in singles and doubles. Meanwhile, six different players have unique Texas ties: Gijs Brouwer (Houston born), Patrick Kypson (Texas A&M), Alex Rybakov (TCU), Austin Krajicek (Texas A&M; Dallas resident), Jackson Withrow (Texas A&M; Austin resident) and Nate Lammons (SMU; Dallas resident).

 


First Time’s a Charm

Fourteen players will make their debut main draw appearance this year: No. 1 Shelton, No. 2 Cerundolo, No. 5 Chris Eubanks, Denis Shapovalov, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Alex Michelsen, Brandon Nakashima, Rinky Hijikata, James Duckworth, Luciano Darderi and Duje Ajdukovic, Alexander Ritschard, and Yibing Wu. Michelsen, 19, and Hijikata, 23, will also compete in their first ATP career clay court match.


Houston’s Own March Madness

Basketball isn’t the only sport celebrating March Madness this spring. Ten players from nine colleges are represented in the singles field, including four of the top eight seeds: Shelton (University of Florida), Eubanks (Georgia Tech), Cerundolo (South Carolina), and Marcos Giron (UCLA). Additional collegiate standouts feature Brandon Nakashima and Alexander Ritschard (Virginia), JJ Wolf (Ohio State), Hijikata (UNC), Kypson (Texas A&M) and Aleksandar Kovacevic (Illinois).


Purcell Eyes Three-Peat

Aussie Max Purcell, 25, will compete in both singles and doubles. The 2022 Wimbledon doubles champion is no stranger to doubles success at River Oaks with back-to-back titles in 2022 (Matt Ebden) and 2023 (Jordan Thompson). Purcell and Thomspon will look to win their second consecutive doubles title this year, which would mark a three-peat for Purcell. 


Past/Present Doubles No. 1s Unite

With the 2024 Paris Olympics on the horizon, the top two American doubles players will join forces on the red clay in Houston in hopes to represent Team USA on clay at Roland Garros this summer. World No. 1 Krajicek and former World No. 1 Rajeev Ram will headline the doubles field as the top seeds.


Ram’s Houston Return

Ram, arguably the most accomplished player in the field with 31 career titles and six doubles majors, returns to Houston for the first time in 10 years. The 40-year-old now doubles specialist last played here in 2014 when he was an active singles player.

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