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“Everyone always says that we’re not good on clay,” Stephens said. “That’ll prove `em wrong.”

Last year, King and Mattek-Sands both reached the French Open’s third round. But no U.S. woman other than a Williams sister has made it as far as the fourth round since 2005.

“Usually, Americans are known to be bad on clay, because we don’t play a lot on clay. … Personally, I hated clay for so long _ up until, like, three years ago,” said King, who splits time between California and Florida. “It’s a different movement with sliding, and different preparation. On hard courts, you have to play the points quicker, and on clay, you have to be a little bit more patient and work the points more.”

King’s best advice?

“You can’t go on the court thinking, `I hate this surface and I don’t want to be here,’ because then you’re going to play badly,” she said.

Mattek-Sands had been limited to a total of nine main-draw singles matches before Monday because of lower back and hip injuries. Her ranking slid from a career-high 30th last July to 167th this week.

“I like the clay, believe it or not,” Mattek-Sands said. “I feel comfortable on this surface.”

Then, as if sounding a note of caution to herself _ and anyone else who might get too excited about the Americans’ early success in Paris this year _ Mattek-Sands added: “It’s still only one round, though. There are a few to go.”

Didn’t always used to be such a big deal for U.S. women to win a match at the French Open. Hard to believe, maybe, but the WTA said 31 Americans reached the second round in 1982.


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