Tennis in America: Red, White, and Mostly Blue

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IJune 27, 2008

The frustration was evident on Andy Roddick’s face just a few days ago, as most fans watched in shock. 

Last year, he was devastated after losing in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon when he was ranked No. 3 and felt like he could legitimately compete with the top seeds. 

This time around, he could not even get out of the second round, losing in four sets to Serbia's Janko Tipseravic. Now, Roddick must take the long plane ride home to the United States.

However, he is not taking it alone.

America has been a complete no-show at Wimbledon this year, with only a handful of superstars remaining after the first two days. And now, all the men will be packing their white shorts for next year. 

Roddick’s defeat, alongside the equally embarrassing loss for James Blake on the same day has many people wondering—is tennis dead in the United States?

Presently, the only two Americans left in the field are Venus and Serena Williams. They remain America’s best tennis players by far, and have 14 combined Grand Slam titles to prove it. Yet, for all their talent, they barely have the drive anymore. Even for those at the top of the game, tennis is taking a back seat to fashion lines and reality TV shows. Their raw talent alone allows them to show up and do well, but even that is not enough to secure them the trophy.

So instead, American tennis fans must latch on to pseudo-Americans like Maria Sharapova. However, Sharapova has also taken an early fall and may be more injured than she’s letting on heading into the 2008 Olympics and the U.S. Open. 

With such a poor showing, people must wonder where the future of tennis is heading for the United States. We have been told for years now that Blake and Roddick can carry the flag for us, but the results have proven otherwise.

Roddick has only one major title, the 2003 U.S. Open, and he has not reached the finals of a Grand Slam event in two years. This year, he was bumped in the third round of the Australian and sat out the French with an injury.

Now, at age 25, Roddick seems to have more coaches than victories. He also recently got engaged, and you begin to wonder just how much longer he is for this sport. 

Tennis is a cruel game—it will knock you off from the top spot faster than you can blink. Roger Federer felt that first hand after Rafael Nadal handed him a severe beat down in the French Open Finals just a month ago.

If Blake is really America’s best future prospect, than things are bleak indeed.  Blake has competed in the Grand Slam since 1999, and he has never gotten past the quarterfinals.

Let that actually sink in. He has never advanced to even semifinal in a Grand Slam Event in nine years of trying.

It is becoming painfully clear that men’s tennis in America seems to be fading away. 

The future for the women’s tennis is not much brighter.

Both Venus and Serena have dominated tennis in the past and it appears they could easily do so again, but the drive has simply not been there. It makes sense when one reaches the top of the mountain to find other challenges, and now, they are reaching an age where they too will soon be departing for brighter pastures.

Lindsey Davenport has been hampered by injuries this year and had to withdraw from Wimbledon. She is also not getting any younger.

Perhaps Serena and Venus will continue to succeed at the All-England club.  Since they are on separate sides of the draw, they could theoretically play each other for the title. Although the sisters have never particularly enjoyed playing each other in a Grand Slam event, maybe this is just what tennis needs to get exposure in America.

Otherwise, young Americans might be trading in their tennis rackets for quite some time.