John Isner, the No. 1 ranked American on the ATP Tour, lost his opening-round match at the Rome Masters to Jurgen Melzer. Meanwhile, Sam Querrey, once ranked as high as No. 17, lost in the qualifiers.
Isner and Querrey's early exits from Rome punctuate the woeful state of American men's tennis.
The most frustrating part about the demise of U.S. men's tennis is that there appears to be no simple answer to the question: What the heck happened?
The state of American men's tennis has gone from dismal to abysmal.
Nobody considers Isner a serious contender to win a Grand Slam. Querrey, ranked No. 66, continues to plunge closer to the land of "what ever happened to?" That's the place where you'll find Mardy Fish.
Fish, once ranked as high as No. 7, is now playing golf. Yes, golf, a sport with an abundance of successful American male players on tour.
Yet in tennis, it's hard to find players who can advance past the fourth round.
Even the players seem at a loss as to what's going on. “The state of U.S. tennis is not the greatest it has ever been... That’s for sure. We have seen times where you have three U.S. guys in the top 10, something like that. Or 10 guys in the top 50. It’s crazy," Isner told the Miami Herald.
To Isner's credit, he manages to stay in the Top 20 in what Andre Agassi considers the "golden age" of tennis.
But look behind him. The rest of the American men have fallen back—way back.
When Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe were nearing the end of their careers, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Pete Sampras and Agassi took the baton and sprinted forward.
When Sampras and Agassi were approaching retirement, they passed the baton to James Blake and Andy Roddick. When Blake retired last year, Isner was the only American player ranked in the Top 20. By the time Isner, 29, retires, even with his long limbs, it may be difficult to find an American player within reach.
Once considered among the most promising young American male players, Querrey failed to reach a tournament final in 2013. Late last year, Querrey told USA Today that he "got into a little rut" following the breakup with his fiancee.
Earlier this year, he made it to the fourth round of the Australian Open. Although he lost to Fabio Fognini, it was Querrey's best performance in a Grand Slam since 2010.
Querrey is the second ranked American male. Right behind him are Americans Bradley Klahn and Steve Johnson.
Who are Klahn and Johnson? They are the guys ranked higher than Jack Sock (77) and Donald Young (78). Sock and Young were once considered the future of American tennis. If that's the future, it's bleak.
Since then, Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, both younger than Isner, have racked up a combined 19 Grand Slam titles. Forget Grand Slams. American men are struggling to win minor tournaments. Last year, Isner was the only American male to win an ATP title.
As retired tennis players and commentators debate what's behind the drought, fans of American men's tennis must wait.
They wait for talented players who can break away from the pack and take on the front-runners. Sadly, those players are nowhere in sight.
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