Stars and Gripes: The Sorry State of U.S. Tennis

Erik JohnsonContributor IMarch 15, 2011

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 23:  Andy Roddick of the United States of America looks at his racquet in his fourth round match against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland during day seven of the 2011 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 23, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Lucas Dawson/Getty Images)
Lucas Dawson/Getty Images

An American has not won a Grand Slam singles tournament since Andy Roddick captured the US Open in 2003. Of course, this is due in large part to a couple of guys named Federer and Nadal, but it brings the future of American tennis in to question.

Long gone are the dominant days of Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, and Pete Sampras.

Tennis has never exactly flourished in the United States with the constant popularity of other sports like football and baseball, but the sport is still very much alive in American culture. The United States Tennis Association has 700,000 current members, along with countless other casual players not registered with the USTA.

It’s definitely worth noting that the Bryan brothers have dominated the doubles scene for the past eight years and the United States has been very successful in Davis Cup competitions, winning it as recently as 2007. But without an American finding success at the highest level, the sport is only likely to decrease in popularity in this country.

With respect to James Blake and Robby Ginepri, here’s a look at a few of the current tennis players who have a chance to win the United States another major:


Andy Roddick

The face of Babolat is the last American to win a major, when he won the 2003 US Open at the age of 21. He is consistently ranked in the top 10 in the world thanks to his nearly unstoppable serve and huge forehand.

However, Roddick hasn’t gotten past the fourth round in any of the past four majors. Perhaps he’s been distracted by Brooklyn Decker, his absurdly hot supermodel wife, or maybe Roddick already peaked.

Either way, the former world No. 1 may still remain the best chance the United States has at capturing another major.


Mardy Fish

Mardy Fish is a very interesting case. He’s another American tennis player with a smoking hot significant other (what is with that?), but he’s a little unusual in that his best years have come in his late 20s.

Fish grew up with Roddick in Boca Raton, Florida, but it was always Roddick who shouldered the expectations of American tennis. Like a lot of Americans, Fish used to rely on a huge serve and powerful winners, but in 2010 he slimmed down to around 180 pounds and started to use more speed on the court.

Largely because of his weight loss, Fish has risen all the way up to his highest ranking ever, at No. 15 in the world, but he’s never gotten past the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam.


John Isner

Isner is known for having played the longest professional tennis match in history at Wimbledon in 2010, and at 6’9” he possesses one of the biggest serves in the game.

His biggest issue remains his mobility, which may be what never allows him to beat the Djokovics and Nadals of the world in major tournaments. He has been ranked as high as 18th in the world and is currently ranked No. 33 by the ATP.

The majority of his success has come on hard courts, so perhaps pulling a few upsets in front of the home crowd at the US Open is not completely out of the question for the 25-year-old from North Carolina.


Sam Querrey

Querrey is another lanky American at 6’6”, and he’s already reached the fourth round of the US Open twice, despite being only 23.

Like most Americans, the California native struggles on clay, but he did face Isner in the final of the 2010 Serbia Open on the slower playing surface. Coincidentally, Isner and Querrey teamed their powerful serves together to reach the finals of two doubles tournaments in 2010.

Querrey has won six career singles titles, the same amount as Isner and Fish combined. He’s pretty steady on both his forehand and his backhand, and at No. 24 in the world, he is perhaps the best hope for the future of tennis in the United States.


Donald Young

Donald Young is a bit of a dark horse on this list, as he is currently ranked 143rd in the world, and has never been ranked higher than No. 73.

However, he was at one time ranked as the No. 1 junior player in the world, and he was one of the highest touted Americans since Roddick first broke onto the tennis scene. Inconsistencies have kept the 21-year-old Chicagoan from living up to expectations. Most recently, at the 2011 BNP Paribas Open, Young followed up a fantastic victory over world No. 5 Andy Murray with a lackluster effort against Spaniard Tommy Robredo.

The lefty can’t consistently hit as hard as many of his compatriots, and instead must rely on speed and control. However, if he ever wants to become a serious Grand Slam threat rather than a perennial qualifier, then Donald Young will have to work on his mental game.