Future of American Tennis Finally Looking Up, 2012 US Open

Griffin JacksonContributor IIAugust 31, 2012

John Isner is one of the younger players looking to bring the United States back to the tennis spotlight.
John Isner is one of the younger players looking to bring the United States back to the tennis spotlight.Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

This year’s cadre of Americans is making an impressive run at the 2012 US Open.

The final grand slam of the year has seen 17 Americans advance to the second round (12 men and five women). Thus far, eight have moved on to the third round.

Considering that only four of those American men and only two of the women are seeded, and when we remember that American tennis has seen a sharp decline since the rise of Roger Federer and the subsequent Big Three (Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic), this year’s American ascension is all the more impressive.

One of the biggest surprises came from 18-year-old American Jack Sock. He defeated Florian Mayer, the 22nd seed, in three straight sets (Mayer ended up retiring in the third). Sock is ranked 242nd in the world. That ranking is sure to shoot up after today’s victory over the Italian Flavio Cipolla.

Other notable and up-and-coming American men include Brian Baker, who will face off against Janko Tipsarevic in the second round, Ryan Harrison, who is projected to be among the next generation of US tennis superstars, and Dennis Novikov, who won the youth Supernationals in Kalamazoo, MI this summer.

These rising Americans will join the ranks of more established players: Mardy Fish, Sam Querry and John Isner, all of whom have advanced through the first round. Querry has a tough match coming up, as he is set to battle the sixth seed Tomas Berdych. Meanwhile, Isner will have to get past Jarkko Nieminen to continue his run.

The older American men, Andy Roddick and James Blake, have also carried the torch proudly at this year’s Open. Blake won his second-round match in one of the best matches he’s played in years. Roddick, who announced his imminent retirement from professional tennis today, will have an electric atmosphere that could propel him deep into the tournament.

The American women have a lot to be proud of too. Rising stars include Varvara Lepchenko, Mallory Burdette and Sloane Stephens. All three are already into the third round, and Stephens has been called the friend and prodigy of Serena Williams, who is possibly the greatest female player in tennis history.

The Williams sisters were their typical, impressive selves in the first round. Serena has had an incredibly dominant summer and is through to the third round. Venus, somewhat surprisingly, was taken down by Angelique Kerber in their late-night three-setter on Thursday. Both players, despite claims that they’re on the downside of their careers, play some of their best tennis in Flushing Meadows.

While the immediate future of men's tennis seems destined to be fought over by the likes of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray, the Americans can at least take comfort in the recognition that we really have a good crop coming up.

Following a decade-long drought (Roddick's 2003 US Open win was the last Grand Slam victory for the US men), the future is beginning to look less bleak. And for the women, with the Williams sisters near the twilight of their stellar careers, there are a few promising prospects to take up their mantle. 

For the first time in a long time in American tennis, things appear to be looking up.