Thanks to players like Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe,then Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi and,lately,Andy Roddick,there has always been at least one man from the United States in the top-10 of professional tennis since computer rankings began in 1973.
That will end next week with Roddick sliding from No. 9 to No. 12 when the new rankings are issued on Monday. Its a big thing to say,Look,theres no American in the top 10. Thats certainly not something I take lightly, said Patrick McEnroe,the US Davis Cup captain and general manager of player development for the US Tennis Association. But its not that surprising when you look at the way the game has changed and the global nature of the game. Players are coming from all over the world, McEnroe said at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic,where the quarterfinals were contested without a US man for the first time ever since the tournament commenced in 1969.
Roddick lost in the third round,as did other three remaining Americans: John Isner,Mardy Fish and Ryan Sweeting. Does it affect our ability to bring in 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.
US 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 US Open,a 27-tournament gap. The only longer span between US Grand Slam titles was a 30-tournament shutout from 1955-63. Only two active US men,Roddick and Robby Ginepri,have even managed to reach the semifinals at any major tournament.
I dont think the US has anything to panic about. There are so many good players, said Belgiums Xavier Malisse,who upset Isner on Thursday,then knocked off Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic to reach the semifinals. There are so many young kids knocking on the door,too,so its just a matter of time,I think,and good guidance, he added.
Thats where McEnroe comes in. He has overseen the USTA development programme since 2008,and is confident that help is on way,thanks to funding that allows for 24 full-time coaches and others who work on a part-time basis. There is a training centre in Boca Raton,Florida,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 Isner and Sam Querrey ranked 19th and 20th this week are on their way to making it there as well. But he also knows its key for the future of the sport in the United States that new players are groomed. Thats why the USTA has put more money into player development, McEnroe said. They realise that,for the continued success of the US Open and continued success of television deals,and continued success of growing the game,its important to have our players at the top of the game.