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Where are the Americans in men's tennis?

Last updated on: August 10, 2010 09:16 IST

Where are the Americans in men's tennis?

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While their women, led by the Williams sisters have gone from strength to strength, American men's tennis, says Bikash Mohapatra, has arguably reached its nadir.

A few years back you would not even have thought about it.

But, now, it is reality.

There's no American man in the top 10 in the ATP rankings issued on Monday -- the first such instance since the rankings were introduced in 1973.

Andy Roddick is the highest ranked American at No 11.

The former US Open champion's shocking loss to Frenchman Gilles Simon at the Washington Classic last week meant no American man is in the top 10 for the first time in the ranking system's 37-year history.

Furthermore, the fact that there are only six Americans in the top 100 at present undermines the quality coming out of a country which not long ago dominated the sport.

This marks the decline of American men's tennis since the glory days, the last of which were personified by legends like Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi in recent times, and Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Arthur Ashe before them.

For the record, no American man has won a major title since Roddick's triumph at the US Open in 2003 -- that translates to 27 straight majors sans an American winner. The last time there was such a gap was between 1984 -- after John McEnroe's triumph in the US Open -- and 1989, when Michael Chang won the French Open.

And while their women, led by the Williams sisters have gone from strength to strength, American men's tennis has arguably reached its nadir, at least in terms of results (and rankings).

There can always be a counter argument saying the last few years in men's tennis have been dominated by two players -- Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

However, despite the duo's unquestionable dominance, players like Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin del Potro and even Andy Murray have made breakthroughs while the American challenge has faded over the years.

The reason being, in the last decade or so, save Roddick we haven't had an American player who is good enough to challenge the best in the world on a consisitent basis, let alone win.

The likes of James Blake, Jan-Michael Gambill, Justin Gimelstob and Robby Ginepri et al have been good, but not good enough.

All in not lost though.

For the first time in years, though, there is the emergence of at least a few American players who have the potential to make the breakthrough in the coming years and ensure the country's absence in the men's top 10 is just temporary.

We take a look at a few of these players.

And mind you, Roddick still has a few years left in him.


Image: Andy Roddick
Photographs: Reuters
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Isner has potential, but...

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John Isner

Rank: 19
ATP titles: 1
ATP Finals: 5
Best major performances: Pre-quarters (2009 US Open, 2010 Australian Open)

At present, John Isner is the second-ranked American player after Andy Roddick.

And he is very much in public memory for his epic first round match against Frenchman Nicolas Mahut which, at five minutes more than 11 hours, became the longest match in tennis history, Isner eventually prevailing 6-4, 3-6, 6-7(7), 7-6(3), 70-68.

Having been voted the ATP Most Improved Player for 2009, Isner began the year on a high, beating 2001 Australian Open finalist Arnaud Clement 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(2) to win in Auckland, his first and thus far only ATP title.

He followed it up by making it to the last 16 of the Australian Open and the final at Memphis.

Thereafter, his performances have been inconsistent, but just about enough (read finals at Belgrade and Atlanta) to keep him in the top 20, a target he had set for himself at the start of the year.

He definitely has potential -- a big serve backed by a decent all-round game. Whether he realises it remains to be seen.


Image: John Isner

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Awaiting that major breakthrough

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Sam Querrey

Rank: 21
ATP titles: 6
ATP Finals: 11
Best major performance: Quarters (2007 US Open)

Sam Querrey, is without doubt, the most-improved American on the tour this year.

The 22-year-old is one of the biggest success stories of the year -- besides the top brass -- having won as many as four titles in five final appearances.

Furthermore, his titles have all come on different surfaces -- Memphis (Indoor Hard), Belgrade (Clay), Queen's Club (Grass) and Los Angeles (Outdoor Hard) -- showcasing his versatality as a player.

His lone final defeat this year came on the green clay at Houston.

From becoming the first player to win a Challenger event on his pro debut (in 2006) to making a mark on the pro tour, Querrey has come a long way -- in very short time.

A big server -- in August 2007, he hit an Open Era record 10 successive aces in his win over compatriot James Blake at Indianapolis - backed by a ferocious forehand are the key facets of his game.

A breakthrough performance in a major event will ensure he becomes a name to reckon with in the tennis elite.


Image: Sam Querrey

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An impression that is long overdue

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Mardy Fish

Rank: 34
ATP titles: 5
ATP finals: 16
Best major performances: Quarters (2007 Australian Open, 2008 US Open)

For starters, Mardy Fish was a silver medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics, losing the final in five sets to Chilean Nicolas Massu.

He has come a long way since, with five tour titles and a further 11 appearances in the finals. Besides, he has been equally successful as a doubles player.

But a major breakthrough is something that still eludes Fish. And at 28, he doesn't have many years left at the top level.

A big serve and a powerful backhand are his strengths while inconsistencies and injuries have hampered his rise to the top echelons.

However, back-to-back titles at Newport and Atlanta recently, Fish might just be peaking in the right time to make an impression at the upcoming US Open.

An impression that is long overdue.

Taylor Dent and Michael Russell round-up the Americans in the top-100.

Both are past their primes and have been journeymen throughout their respective careers. So not much hope in there.


Image: Mardy Fish

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