John Isner to Jack Sock: Assessing the Current State of American Men's Tennis
Andy Roddick is retired. Mardy Fish is having health issues. John Isner lost in five sets at each of the Grand Slams this year. Donald Young's ranking is in a free fall.
And the major tournament season ended at the U.S. Open, with Roddick's 2003 victory there being the last time an American man captured a Grand Slam singles title, an ignominious streak that's reaching historic levels.
Despite all of that, the state of U.S. men's professional tennis is not as bad as it may appear on paper.
And perhaps as early as next season, something major could occur to ease any concerns. Right now, there are reasons to be optimistic, and compared to other nations, American men's statistics match up with all but a few.
For one, the number of Americans finding a measure of success on the ATP World Tour is significant. As of the most recent rankings, there are currently eight active men from the U.S. within the top 100. (Roddick hasn't fallen off the computer rankings yet.) That's enough to put the U.S. among the top-5 best-represented nations in that category.
Another factor that coincides with the volume in the top 100 is the level of advancement up the rankings.
Isner and Fish, the top two Americans, have shown marked improvement over the past two seasons. Sam Querrey, the No. 3-ranked U.S. player. has made his way back from injury to find himself well within the top 30 in 2012. With few points to defend the rest of the year, Querrey could find himself solidly in the top 20 by the end of the season.
The comeback story of tennis this year, Brian Baker, could possibly join the top 50—something almost unthinkable as recently as 2011, as he battled back from career-threatening injuries.
Will an American male win a Grand Slam singles title within the next five years?
Outside of the top 100, though, there are some good things happening that indicate the U.S. game is in good shape. Denis Kudla and Jack Sock—the 2011 U.S. Open mixed doubles champion with Melanie Oudin—are both under 21 and have made tremendous strides. Kudla and Sock could soon join a peer, Ryan Harrison, in the top 60.
Someone around their age who has taken a different route in his career path is Steve Johnson. A two-time NCAA champion, Johnson is settling into a solid groove on the ATP Tour and is coming off a third-round appearance at this year's U.S. Open.
But aside from singles players, the accomplishments of Bob and Mike Bryan in doubles match up against those of the greats in any sport.
American men have had tremendous success in the past, and this crop will always be measured against those standards. But if things were to be viewed from perhaps a more realistic standpoint, it would be revealed that the U.S. players are faring solidly against the world.
Switzerland, Serbia, Scotland and Spain might be dominating the men's tour now, but the U.S. is definitely engaged in the battle.
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