As a loyal fan of Pardon the Interruption, I was sad when I missed a classic Tony Kornheiser moment. SemihErden paraphrases it as: “American Tennis is now borderline irrelevant.” Why though? What happened to the Agassi/Sampras days where Americans dominated the sport? I’ll try and explain why this is the case by taking each of our “stars” and explicating why they continue to face early-round exits.
The guy has no game. I mean that in a tennis sense; anybody who can say he is married to Brooklyn Decker has some kind of game. I’m not going to deny that he possesses perhaps the most powerful – or heavy, rather – serve in men’s tennis; nor am I going to deny that his forehand is a force to be reckoned with. But compare his style of play to Roger Federrer’s, who exhibits patience, placement, and most of all a plan. Federrer’s tennis, in my estimation, demonstrates a mix of strategy and skill; Roddick’s is a lot of power and that should do it.
At the US Open in 2010 he lost to Janko Tipseravic. Who? Who? Give me a break, bud. Perhaps if he wasn’t so busy making appearances on Sabrina the Teenage Witch he’d do
better – I don’t know. As you can tell, I’m irritated because I actually like watching men’s tennis, but I just don’t have a horse in the race.
You’re probably saying, FromMontanaToCrabtree, you’re too harsh: Roddick was ranked number one in the world in 2003. Yes, I am aware of that. Let’s see who he beat to get there – namely his US Open Championship – Malisse, Nalbandian, Ferrer.  Okay, I rest my case. Incidentally, this is before Nadal and Federer showed up in perfect from, also.
I mean I don’t even know if I can be talking about James Blake, because the guy – bless his soul – has been injured for a large part of his career. Shingles, a freak neck accident, and other issues have largely kept him off the court for long enough to make any sort of impact. You feel bad for the guy because he probably could have been decent, but at this point it’s been too long.
Now you’re thinking, OK jackass, all you’ve done is complain about how bad our two cause célèbre tennis players are, what about the future of men’s tennis. Glad you asked.
I can’t really say much about the future of men’s tennis in the US. Names like John Isner, Sam Querry, Ryan Sweeting, Mardy Fish, come up every now and then, but mainly in the Serbia Open and the AEGON Open. I think part of the problem is a general lack of leadership these days amongst American tennis players. Consider that our last Davis Cup victory was in 2007 – who is going to lead that team, Andy Roddick? Please. Or consider that American Tennis players simply don’t have an ace like the Swiss have with Roger or the Spanish have with Nadal. Even Novak Djokovic – who to my mind will be the next worldwide tennis kemosabe – has put Serbian tennis on the map.
McEnroe says that we shouldn’t be surprised about America’s fall from dominance in tennis. Specifically, he told NBC that “[p]layers are coming from all over the world” now, and so the competition is getting tougher. If that’s the case, why isn’t the USTA putting more money, time and energy into player development? Well, McEnroe says that they are but I don’t see it. Which brings me to my next point.
Another problem may be a lack of talent generally. There are a total of four Americans ranked in the Top 50 by the ATP, and only Roddick cracks the top 20. I’ve been complaining that American tennis stinks, but maybe it’s just a problem with the level of talent that these guys just do not have. How many times have we seen Djokovic or someone else just casually beat Blake or Fish at the US Open? It’s obvious that Novak is significantly more talented than either of those men, but where is the future? The next 18-year-old phenom?
My guess is in Europe.