At the Net: American men reach all-time low
Philadelphia, PA – Just when you thought American men's tennis couldn't get any worse, something will happen next week that's never happened before in the history of the sport.
When the new ATP rankings come out on Monday, an American will not be in the top 20 for the first time since the official rankings first started 40 years ago, in 1973. Heck, even before 1973 an unofficial top 20 would have revealed a bevy of Americans, who'd mostly dominated the sport for over a century (with honorable mention to Australia).
When current world No. 20 John Isner, who titled in Atlanta two weeks ago and was a finalist in Washington, D.C., just last week, lost in the opening round at the Canadian Masters event in Montreal this week, he was guaranteed to drop out of the top 20, which will leave the top of the men's game (dare I say it?) American-less, as the 6-foot-9 Isner will be ranked no higher than No. 22 next week.
Where have you gone, Andy Roddick?
The next-best American man is 26th-ranked Sam Querrey, who's then followed by No. 78 Mardy Fish, who was in the top 10 last year, as was Isner, but has been slowed by a host of problems over the last two seasons, specifically a heart condition that required a medical procedure last year.
It seems like only yesterday when we were complaining about not having a player in the top 10. What's next ... wondering why we have nobody in the top 50?!
The U.S. had at least one player inside the top 10 from 1973 until 2010, or before Roddick started his decline and then abruptly retired last year. The Minnesota native Fish can't stay healthy, and North Carolina's Isner and California's Querrey probably aren't going to get any better.
And what the heck happened to Ryan Harrison?
Harrison, he of a game that lacks aggression in my estimation, was considered to be the future of American men's tennis as recently as last year, but has been flat out brutal of late. The 21-year-old Louisiana native reached a career-high No. 43 in the rankings last summer only to plummet to his current position of No. 104, or outside the top 100.
The only other "big" prospect on the horizon would be 90th-ranked Nebraska native Jack Sock, and no one has pegged him as a top-10 type. His game does feature power and versatility, but it's obvious that neither he nor Harrison are currently ready to carry the torch for American men's tennis.
How 'bout Harrison's younger brother, 377th-ranked Christian, or former college stars like world No. 100 Steve Johnson, No. 109 Dennis Kudla or 116th- ranked Rhyne Williams?
I don't see it.
In embarrassing fashion last month, a U.S. male failed to reach the third round at Wimbledon for the first time in 101 years, or since 1912, the year Titanic went down (way down). And just for the record, no American man entered the 1912 Wimbledon draw.
"It's a worldwide sport now," said 31-year-old 131st-ranked American journeyman Bobby Reynolds. "I think most sports you look back, years ago, the Americans usually were very good, whether it's basketball or baseball or tennis. Sports are becoming such a worldwide thing that everybody is so good now. I think that's what we're so used to looking back and saying, 'Oh, look at all the dominance.' But how many were actually playing worldwide as opposed to now? Every country has top guys playing tennis. I think that's more of what it is rather than the lack of talent coming out of the States."
Those are valid points ... just not solutions to our tennis woes.
Hell, Canada (Milos Raonic at No. 13) has more players in the top 20 than we do! Canada!! And Canada's top prospect after Raonic, 71st-ranked Vasek Pospisil, is the guy who beat Isner in Montreal this week.
Since '73, we've had more world No. 1 men than any other nation (6) and more Davis Cup titles than any other country (8), but those days are clearly in the rear-view mirror. The last American male to hold the No. 1 spot was Roddick back in 2003, and we've hoisted just one Davis Cup over the last 18 years (2007, led by Roddick). Roddick also happens to be the last American man to capture a Grand Slam title, which he did 10 years ago at our beloved U.S. Open. The great Andre Agassi captured the Australian Open earlier in 2003.
Davis Cup Note: Dating back to its inception in 1900, the U.S. leads all nations with a whopping 32 titles.
Where have you gone, Bill Tilden?
Scotland currently has more male Grand Slam singles champions over the last 10 years than we do, as Great Britain hadn't produced a male major singles winner since 1936 before Andy Murray achieved his Wimbledon glory last month.
The best athletes in the U.S. just aren't playing tennis. They, of course, are playing football, baseball and basketball. And golf, which does not necessarily require great athleticism, continues to be on the rise among American youth.
American men's tennis is still breathing, it's just no longer beating its chest.
Where is the next great champion like Tilden, Don Budge, Jack Kramer, Pancho Gonzalez, Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Agassi, Jim Courier, Andy Roddick, etc?
They're out there .. they're just not coming from the United States.