Where have all the great American male tennis players gone?


The last Yanks standing on Paris clay this year were Sebi Korda, Brandon Nakashima and the regular but never spectacular John Isner (now 37), all three succumbing in Round 3.

In the infamous words of McEnroe: You can’t be serious!

Reaching Week 2 on the elite stage, once anything but a stroll for the Yanks, has become a predictable dead end no matter what city or surface they tread.

As for the Americans, the Stade Roland Garros was much more lenient this spring. Jessica Pegula, whose parents own the NHL Sabers and the NFL Bills, was fired by rising Polish phenom Iga Swiatek in the quarterbacks. Then, 18-year-old surging powerhouse Coco Gauff made her first Slam final on Saturday, capping a career-best run that included her dismissal (7-5, 6-2) of fellow African-American Sloane Stephens in quarters.

Gauff, who grew up in Florida idolizing Serena and Venus Williams, was seeded 18th in Paris and fell to top seed Swiatek 6-1, 6-3 in the final.

Don’t count on fortunes suddenly changing for American men as they settle on the hallowed green grass of all England in London. There just aren’t any out there right now, and haven’t been in a while. No one is about to turn the tide anytime soon.

Power hitter Andy Roddick, known for his searing serves, won the US Open in 2003, dropping Juan Carlos Ferrero in straight sets. Roddick had just turned 21. The sky above his career was as blue, wide and promising as that of his native Texas. The 2003 Open turned out to be his one and only Slam victory.

It also happened to be the last Slam victory among American men. Roddick then lost in the Wimbledon finals in 2004, 2005 and 2009, each time to Roger Federer, the sublime master wizard, and the latest of those ousters is the most recent appearance by an American in a Slam title. . match.

Again, you guys can’t be serious!

Much like the American auto industry, invaded by brands from all over the world over the last 30-40 years, American men have been reduced to a small market share on a global scale since the turn of the millennium.

The Big Four dominated: Novak Djokovic (Serbia), Rafael Nadal (Spain), Federer (Switzerland) and Andy Murray (Scotland). When Russia’s Daniil Medvedev was ranked No. 2 in the world last May, it was the highest anyone other than the Big Four has reached such a level in 16 years.

John McEnroe captured the Wimbledon material in 1984, beating another American, Jimmy Connors, in the final.DAVE CAULKIN/Associated Press

The Yanks, meanwhile, spluttered and turned on themselves to get to the scrapyard. The world has game. We are left in the dust.

Why? The theories are many and almost as repetitive as the chain of futility. Witness it:

▪ Our guys can hit with power, but they can’t move, lacking Djokovic’s leg stamina, strength and insight (appropriately Exhibit A in the ‘movement’ discussion), Nadal (resembling a honey badger) and Federer (his every step made from “Swan Lake”). When you can’t run, all you have to do is hide.

▪ Our guys fail in the mental game, an inability to build points with deliberate placement of serves or volleys. The 2000s came and we took the focus off the ball. We need more strategy, damn it; more chess, less queens.

▪ Our guys are skipping or missing a critical step by not building their game with enough practice and playing time on clay. It’s the pace of play on clay, according to ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert, that particularly helps a player develop his defensive skills.

“You can’t be great if you can’t defend,” Gilbert told ESPN’s Bill Connelly of this time last year. “A lot of our guys from this generation don’t defend as well as they should.”

Gilbert sees some hope, and especially in the aforementioned Korda, the 6-foot-5 offspring of Petr Korda (former World No. 2) and Regina Rajchrtrova. If he can develop a powerful serve, according to Gilbert, he has a chance of a top-five finish – a rare sight given the career-high No. 21 he reached last month.

Tall and lean (170 pounds), Korda finds herself in a group of American men in their twenties who have built very promising resumes, similar to Gauff and Stephens among women. Tommy Paul (25), Francis Tiafoe (24), Reilly Opelka (24) and Taylor Fritz (24) have all shown the skills required, but none have yet brought them all together and delivered with the metronomic consistency displayed match for game. , year after year, by Djokovic, Nadal (in Sunday’s French final against No. 8 seed Casper Ruud) and the declining Federer (40 years and without a Grand Slam title match since Wimbledon 2019).

If the great Globe scribe Bud Collins were still with us, he would make Uncle Studley lament over the great American impotence.

We no longer have Belleville Basher (Connors), no longer Captain Hook (McEnroe), or Silky Sampras, or Ramrod Roddick. What we have here, at least for now, is a complete failure to dominate.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at [email protected]


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