What is the deal with American men’s tennis? Why aren’t we dominating the scene like we did in the 90s? This is an enigma to most tennis experts as no American male has won a Grand Slam title in 7 years and this drought will probably continue for at least another decade..
It was a tough day at Wimbledon today on the men’s side for the USA. The final 2 Americans left in the men’s draw, Andy Roddick and Sam Querrey, went down. Roddick’s loss was especially tough, in that his opponent only had one break point opportunity the entire match, and converted on it to beat Roddick 9 to 7 in the fifth. Generally when you give up one break opportunity over the course of an entire match, you are cruising. Not on this day for Mr. Roddick, who has really had tough luck with the majority of his career.
For those of you who do not remember, Andy rose to number 1 in the world for a short time in the late summer of 2003, when he went on a hot streak and captured his lone Grand Slam Title (the US Open at Flushing Meadows). Since then, Andy has stayed in the top 10, and generally found himself in the top 5, but he has been unable to convert on a Grand Slam Title. He has failed in 3 Wimbledon final’s appearance and 1 US Open final’s appearance since 2003. This in large part has been due to the phenomenal play of guys such like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. As I stated on an earlier blog post, Andy’s game is better now than it was in 03 when he reached number 1. Roddick was a guy who once was questioned for his work ethic. This has not been the case for years as he has taken it upon himself to considerably improve the weaknesses in his game such as his backhand and sometimes lack of patience during big time points. These are no longer problems. Roddick unfortunately has been a victim of the times (very tough players at the top).
Do not feel too bad for the guy though. He is rolling in money and his wife is a definite DP (dimepiece), having appeared on the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (Brooklyn Decker). Roddick is starting to become an elder statesman on the tour though, in that he is 28 years old. So who is the next great American? We were spoiled in the 90s by guys such as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Expectations are very high and they are not being reached.
Sadly for the men, we have only 2 players outside Roddick ranked in the top 25 in the world (Roddick is 7th). Though Isner played in an epic Wimbledon match this year, he does not look ready to capture a Grand Slam title anytime soon or even crack the top 5. Then our next guy in line is Sam Querrey, who lost today. Querrey looks similar to Isner and does not appear to be cracking the top 5 anytime in the near future (he is a solid player though). Then we have 4 other guys ranked between 70th and 100th in the world. Fat chance any of these guys will really be making any big time noise anytime soon unfortunately. So the hope for American men to get back into the limelight of men’s tennis appears to not be happening in the next decade.
Then on the women’s side, things are not a whole lot better. The top 2 players in the world are the Williams sisters, who are both above the age of 28. Then after them, Melanie Oudin is the next highest ranked American female at 35th, followed by Vania King at 71st, and Jill Craybas at 100. So there are only 5 American women ranked in the top 100 in the world! And the Williams sisters could honestly retire at anytime in that they are getting older and really do not have much left to prove.
So the future of American tennis is looking pretty bleak on both sides of the spectrum (especially for the men). Any thoughts on why this is? And I will state that it is not due to a lack of enthusiasm from American youngsters in that tennis is more popular than it has ever been in the states with more USTA members than ever. I will give you one reason though. Many of the “foreign” men’s and women’s players train and spend the majority of their lives in the United States at tennis academies. And then they still are considered to be a “Russian” or “Australian” player, even if they have spent the majority of their lives in the United States. Outside of that though I really have no reasons why the American tennis game has really fallen off the map. It is a serious mystery.
What do you all think the issue is?
Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.
American kids spend way too much time playing video games, texting, tweeting, etc. For many, playing sports and really putting time and effort into any sport are not a high priority. Many of todays athletes come from poor communities. These kids don’t have the fancy electronic equipment that the kids in the wealthier neighborhoods have. However, tennis is still considerd a country club sport and most of the poorer kids cannot afford lessons, expensive racquets, etc.
You could honestly say that kids in all countries are spending too much messing around with technology. It is not just Americans. Also tennis has been a sport for the wealthier for decades in the US. This did not prevent us from producing top players in the 70s, 80s, or 90s. So that cannot really be considered the problem either.
It is a very tough thing to figure out.
The idea that many of the top players come from poor backgrounds is often repeated in the UK too, and it is complete and utter bunkum. Just read the biographies of the current top ten players of both sexes. Nearly all of the top players, including most of the East Europeans, are from middle class backgrounds. Continental Europe produces more players than the U.S. and the UK because there is more widespread enthusiasm for the sport amongst the population (mainly the middle class population), and a competitive, pro-youth club culture. Standards probably haven’t fallen in the US, but they have risen elsewhere. The level of effort that middle class British and American kids make used to be enough. Now it isn’t. Not because the sport has been taken over by “hungry” poor kids, but because the level of passion for the sport from middle class kids in continental Europe has increased. This is probably down the the succession of great champions continental Europe has produced, starting with Borg and Navratilova in the 1970s.
American tennis has two particular disadvantages. Firstly, the opportunities for boys to make a living out of sport are better in the U.S than anywhere else. But the chances of making money in tennis are so slim, that if you are a sporty and “hungry” poor kid, you would be nuts to choose tennis as your means of bettering yourself. Playing tennis only makes sense if you love the sport.
Secondly, the rule that American colleges must give an equal amount of sports scholarships to girls as boys works against American women’s tennis. Since their are fewer sports-orientated girls than boys, the opportunities to get a scholarship are excellent for sporty American girls. But a girl who plays college tennis has little chance of making it as a pro. Secondly, tennis is an expensive sport, so if your primary aim is to win a sports scholarship, why focus on tennis, when there are many sports that give an equal or greater chance of winning a scholarship, at less financial cost to the family, e.g. various team sports.
Very interesting insight. Are you a big tennis player? It is true in America. There is much more money in the sports such as football, basketball, and baseball. Also title 9 has really hurt the College game and kids who strive for a D1 College scholarship.
Hopefully American tennis rises back up, but not sure if this will be happening any time in the near future.
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