Philadelphia, PA – Now that Andy Roddick has decided to take his tennis racket and go home, what does the future of American men's tennis look like?
I guess it depends on who you ask.
For our purposes, we'll take a look at the contenders for A-Rod's vacated (U.S.) throne.
The 27-year-old Isner is best known for being freakishly tall (6-foot-9) and outlasting (I mean outlasting) Frenchman Nicolas Mahut in that three-day, more-than-11-hour opening-round match at Wimbledon two years ago.
The North Carolina native boasts arguably the best serve in men's tennis, especially that lethal first-serve bomb. He's beaten the likes of world No. 1 Roger Federer (Davis Cup), No. 1-at-the-time Novak Djokovic (Indian Wells), former Aussie Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Davis Cup and Winston- Salem) and former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych (Winston-Salem) this season. Isner just doesn't cover the court like a "top guy."
You can't really call "Big John" a future star in the men's game at the age of 27, but he's definitely the best we have right now.
The 30-year-old Fish is no longer a future star. He may have peaked last year, as the Minnesota native has been slowed mightily by physical problems this season, stemming mostly from fatigue and heart-rate issues that led the former top-10 star to have a heart procedure called a cardiac catheter ablation, which deals with misfiring electrical pulses in the heart.
Fish has dipped to No. 25 in the world and was forced to pull out of his fourth-round match against Roger Federer at the U.S. Open this week because of more heart-related issues.
The 24-year-old Querrey enjoyed one of the better summers on the ATP World Tour this year, finishing second behind the reigning U.S. Open and Aussie Open champion Djokovic in the U.S. Open Series (a series of North American hardcourt events that lead up to the U.S. Open). The California native won the title in Los Angeles for his first piece of hardware in two years and reached the final four in Washington, D.C. and Winston-Salem in his outstanding prep for the Open.
Unfortunately, Querrey lost to the formidable Berdych in the round of 32 in Flushing.
The 20-year-old Harrison seems like the most-likely heir to the Roddick throne, but he's been coming along slowly in 2012. The Louisiana native reached semifinals in San Jose in February, Eastbourne in June and Newport in July, but he then struggled for most of the summer and should probably start re-tooling his game for 2013, when he hopes to become a "playa" on the Davis Cup squad and compete for real at the Slams.
As recently as last year, Harrison was considered one of a handful of guys, along with the likes of Milos Raonic, Bernard Tomic and Grigor Dimitrov, as some of the future top-10 stars, but we haven't been seeing that type of promise from "Harry" lately.
Arguably the best name in men's tennis, the 243rd-ranked 19-year-old Sock seems ready to commit himself fully to tennis. The Nebraska native has a big game and captured 18 USTA national titles as a junior. He also won four consecutive state championships in Kansas, compiling an 80-0 record in high school, and took home the 2010 U.S. Open junior title.
He could be a U.S. star in the making.
The 27-year-old bionic man recently returned to the tour after being off it for more than six years while overcoming several career-threatening operations, most notably reconstructive Tommy John surgery on his all- important right elbow.
The Tennessee native Baker appears to be out of the future-star mix considering his age and well-documented fragility. Prior to all the surgeries, Baker was considered to be a can't-miss top-10 prospect ... but no one told his soon-to-be injury-ravaged body.
You certainly have to hand it to BB for his monumental comeback, but his chance off putting together a Roddick-like career, unfortunately, came and went.
The 23-year-old Young had a decent run at last year's U.S. Open, but his career has basically been a disappointment ever since he turned pro in 2004.
The lefty from Chicago recently halted the second-worst losing streak in the history of the ATP, a 17-match skid that trails only his fellow American Vince Spadea's epic 21-match slide from 1999-2000.
Now that I think about it, maybe we're going to miss Roddick even more than we first thought. Where are all the great prospects? I'm not really seein' 'em here.
Too bad we can't make trades in tennis.
Roddick is the last American man to win a Grand Slam event, and that was nine long years ago in New York. It would appear as though that number is about to head into double digits.
At the time of this column, Roddick was still alive as the only American men's hope at the Open. What else is new?