Ask any United States tennis fan, and they will tell you that they are not happy with their country's representation in the sport, recently. The reasoning behind this is simple enough: a Grand Slam trophy hasn't been hoisted by an American man's hands since Andy Roddick's US Open run in 2003.
Most tennis fans and analysts will express the idea that it doesn't seem as though things will be turning around for the Americans anytime soon, either. Some of the highest ranked players from the United States are veterans, and young hit-or-miss prospects, such as 20-year-old Ryan Harrison.
With the release of the 2012 US Open draw, though, a glimmer of hope has appeared. That hope comes in the form of John Isner, the big-serving American from North Carolina.
In recent seasons, Grand Slams have mostly been dominated by the Big Four, consisting of Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer. So what happens when you take one of them (in this case Nadal, who has withdrawn from the Flushing Meadows campaign due to knee problems) out of the picture?
What you get is an opening for Dark Horses that can usually hope to reach no further than the quarterfinals. Without Nadal, one of the four-draw quarters lacks a Big Four member. Luckily for American fans, Isner was drawn into that quarter.
The biggest threats in Isner's quarter are fourth-seeded David Ferrer and eighth-seeded Janko Tipsarevic. While both of them will definitely prove to be formidable opponents (should Isner encounter them), they are obstacles that can be overcome.
Coming off a successful week at the Winston-Salem Open, during which he defeated World No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and World No. 7 Tomas Berdych to reclaim the title, Isner certainly has a lot of momentum going into Flushing Meadows. It won't be easy for him to come out of his quarter by any means, but those big wins proved that he has the ability to take down big names with the way he is playing now.
Should his momentum push him all the way to a quarterfinal victory, he will most likely have two Big Four members between him and the trophy. The odds would be against him for sure, but that's no reason to count him out.
Isner's play in early 2012 showed the tennis world just how strong of a player he can be when at the top of his game. By stunning Federer in Davis Cup play and taking down Djokovic in the Indian Wells semifinals, it became clear that he is a threat to any player in the game. And having all of New York City on his back at Arthur Ashe stadium will only help his cause.
With Federer, Murray and Djokovic playing the way they have been, it seems unrealistic to think that anybody else will win the title. With enough momentum and support from the American crowds, though, the United States certainly has someone to root for in the season's fourth and final major.