WASHINGTON – Thanks to players such as Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, then Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, and, lately, Andy Roddick, there always has been at least one man from the United States in tennis' top 10 since the computer rankings began in 1973.
That streak will end next week.
With Roddick sliding from No. 9 to no better than No. 12 when the new rankings are issued Monday, the ATP said, it will be the first time zero U.S. men are among the top 10.
"It's a big thing to say, 'Look, there's no American in the top 10.' That's certainly not something I take lightly," said Patrick McEnroe, the U.S. Davis Cup captain and general manager of player development for the U.S. Tennis Association.
"But it's not that surprising when you look at the way the game has changed and the global nature of the game," McEnroe added. "Players are coming from all over the world."
He spoke in an interview Friday at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, where the quarterfinals were contested without a U.S. man for the first time at the tournament that dates to 1969.
Roddick lost in the third round Thursday, when the other three remaining Americans also were beaten: John Isner, Mardy Fish and Ryan Sweeting.
"Does it affect our ability to bring in some additional crowds? I would say so," tournament director Jeff Newman said. "From a name-recognition standpoint, for the casual fan or the non-tennis fan, we want to have Americans who are household names."
U.S. men are in their longest Grand Slam title drought in tennis' 42-year Open era: No man from the country has won a major championship since Roddick at the 2003 U.S. Open, a 27-tournament gap. The only longer span between U.S. Grand Slam titles was a 30-tournament shutout from 1955-63.
Only two active U.S. men, Roddick and Robby Ginepri, even have reached the semifinals at any major tournament.
At the Legg Mason event, essentially a tuneup for the U.S. Open, the men playing in Friday's quarterfinals were from Argentina, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Serbia and Spain.
"I don't think the U.S. has anything to panic about. There are so many good players," said Belgium's Xavier Malisse, who upset Isner on Thursday, then knocked off Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, the tournament's No. 1-seeded player, to reach the semifinals.
"There are so many young kids knocking on the door, too," Malisse said, "so it's just a matter of time, I think, and good guidance."
That's where McEnroe comes in.
He has overseen the USTA development program since 2008, and he is confident that help is on the way, thanks to funding that allows for 24 full-time coaches and others who work on a part-time basis. There is a training center in Boca Raton, Fla., where kids aged 13 to 18 live while working on their games, and other facilities in New York and California.
McEnroe thinks Roddick will return to the top 10 soon. And he figures that Isner and Sam Querrey — who are ranked 19th and 20th this week — are on their way to making it there for the first time.
But he also knows that it's key for the future of the sport in the United States that new players are groomed.
"That's why the USTA has put more money into player development," McEnroe said. "They realize that for the continued success of the U.S. Open, and continued success of television deals, and continued success of growing the game, it's important to have our players at the top of the game."