The Great Decline – The Fall Of American Tennis

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Agassi and Sampras

In 1984, there were 24 American men in the top 50 and 6 in the top 10.
In 1994, there were 11 American men in the top 50 and 4 in the top 10.
In 2004, there were 7 American men in the top 50 and 2 in the top 10.
In 2014, there are 2 American men in the top 50 and NOBODY in the top 10.

It is safe to say that American tennis is going downhill. Andy Roddick, the last American to make any sort of mark in the men’s singles game, won his one and only Grand Slam at US Open, 2003. Eleven years have gone by and no American has won a Grand Slam since. Gone are the times when Americans dominated the men’s game. From the golden days of Jimmy Connors in the 70s, through the McEnroe era in the 80s, to the Sampras-Agassi show in the 90s, Americans have dominated the sport. The unparallelled success enjoyed by them for nearly 3 decades has come to a stop. There hasn’t been anyone since, who has seemed to take up the mantle of carrying on the legacy left behind by these greats of the game. Each of them had been World No 1 for considerable periods. Today, there is no-one close to that level.

The decline is even more clear as today, when the US Open 2014 Men’s Singles Fourth Round Draw was complete, not a single American made it. And this happens to be their home tournament. The highest seeded American is John Isner at 15th. But at 29 years of age, it is safe to say that he’s past his ‘prime’. A quarter-final appearance at US Open 2011 is his highest achievement. Along with Sam Querrey, Isner was one of the two people on whom the home crowd had a tiny bit of expectation. But, both have been knocked out in the 3rd round, ending a dismal performance by the home side. The same was seen the previous Grand Slam at Wimbledon, when for the first time since 1911, no American made it to the second week (gentlemen’s and ladies’ singles).

Why is this happening? One can argue that this is probably because of the sudden boom of European players in recent years, especially from Eastern Europe. But that is no excuse for this drastic drop in quality of American tennis. And considering the U.S. Open is the largest tennis tournament in the world, and garners around $200 million for the United States Tennis Association, approximately 15% of which goes to the Player Development Program, it raises a lot of questions. It would seem that the the new generation in the country lost interest in the sport. But then, it is confusing when you see that the No 1 ranks in both Women’s Singles (Serena Williams) and Men’s Doubles (Bryan brothers) are both Americans. A global superpower like USA probably has the best facilities in the world for youngsters to train in. But the money that is said to have been invested hasn’t borne any fruit yet.

The alarm bells are certainly ringing. This current situation in the country is embarrassing. The fact that their neighbors Canada, who have always lived in the shadow of their giant neighbor, have seen a recent boom in quality tennis players (Raonic and Bouchard), just makes the American crisis worse. They longer they go on without any top players, more and more home fans lose interest in the sport. The USTA needs to call for desperate measures immediately. It will take time, but the rebuilding process has to start now. Maybe one day they will return to the pinnacle of the sport. God Bless America.

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