From oddly-drawn locks to escape rooms, Americans are having fun in Melbourne

Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz, Jessica Pegula and Madison Keys have bonded since their United Cup success

Taylor Fritz, Jessica Pegula, Frances Tiafoe Taylor Fritz, Jessica Pegula, Frances Tiafoe | © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Something is going on with the American players at this year’s Australian Open and whatever it is, it’s working.

From Frances Tiafoe down, through Taylor Fritz, Jessica Pegula and Madison Keys, the American players have been bonding, having fun, playing games together and generally having a great time. And it’s translating to success on the court.

Tiafoe, Pegula and Keys all reached the third round while Fritz will try to join them on Thursday.

Ever since the quartet led the United States to victory in the United Cup at the start of the year, the camaraderie has been obvious for everyone to see. The four have been almost inseparable at Melbourne Park, laughing and joking at every turn.

Tiafoe – who else? – is the man in charge, sporting a natty line in clothing and keeping everyone in stitches during his press conferences.

Tiafoe locked in as Fritz makes Freudian drawing mistake

The in-form American has been talking about being “locked in” ever since they formed for the United Cup and won it. So much so that they’ve been drawing lock emojis on the cameras in Melbourne, although Fritz’s attempt ended up looking more phallic than metallic.

“Just have to stay locked,” he told reporters on Thursday. “It’s the whole thing with the United Cup guys. Just staying locked in. I made a joke about it with the guys, the United Cup asking them before the march, Are you locked? It’s definitely become a thing. It’s so funny how true it is because, I mean, staying between the lines, it’s amazing how well you play. It’s been coming like it’s a funny thing with everybody.

“The locked thing, honestly, I’ve been kind of living by that for a little bit,” he continued. “I think you’ve seen the shift in myself in being more just locked in everything you’re doing, staying super present, staying in the moment, staying locked in.

“It’s funny coming from me because everyone knows how I go about my business. I’m very open and just joking around. When I’m saying it, it just sounds funny. So then it became a thing where if Frances can lock, everyone has got to lock. That’s kind of, like, how it all came around.

“But it’s funny because they’re all saying it. Maddie, Fritz. Fritz dumb ass, drew a penis the other day trying to draw a lock sign. That’s Fritz being Fritz. It’s good. We’re all doing well, and it’s becoming a good team camaraderie, so yeah.”

Fritz apologised on social media for his vaguely obscene attempt to draw a lock.

United Cup success brought the Americans closer together

Keys said the United Cup had brought them all together, which is unusual in tennis, usually such an individual sport.

“Honestly, I think I speak for everyone, it was truly the best two weeks of my whole life,” she said. “It was so much fun. And obviously winning is the cherry on top and all of that. I mean, to have the seven other amazing people and then all of our teams together, it was just a really great group of people. I think it was the perfect way to start the year.

“I mean, we had so much fun. I’m really happy that we’ve continued to — we still talk literally every single day. We still have meals together and all of that. So I think just carrying that over outside of the event has been really great for all of us.

“I guess for whatever reason today we decided that we would all lean in and try to explain what Taylor was trying to do for him (by drawing locks on the cameras).”

Pegula revelling in escape room fun

Pegula said the team were working hard to keep their relationships going, including doing an Escape Room together.

Taylor Fritz hugs Frances Tiafoe, Madison Keys and Jessie Pegula at the United Cup (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

“We did do one Saturday night, because we’re trying to keep the same chemistry going,” she said. “Everyone so far is doing pretty well. We had a blast in United Cup. Rooting for a lot of my team-mates so hopefully we can keep it going.”

And Tiafoe even revealed that he’d told Mackenzie McDonald that he had a genuine chance of beating Rafael Nadal in the second round, as he did, although Nadal suffered a hip injury in the process.

“I think it’s been a question mark how Rafa has been feeling for a little bit now,” he said. “I told Mackey, listen, you could join the three amigos, you know: me, Fritz, and Tommy (Paul). We all got him. I don’t know if you want to join it.

“Also, I told him, you’re going to be in a position to win today. You can win today. Sort of seeing how he feels, I’m happy for Mackey. GOAT wins don’t come easy. Something to tell his grandkids one day, and you have to be happy for that guy.”

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