The clay court season has officially begun this week with the start of the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters. When looking at the men's singles draw there is a glaring absence: Where are the Americans?
Not one American man is entered in the field, and you can't really blame them. The last American to win a masters series title on the dirt was Andre Agassi at the Rome Masters in 2002. Agassi is also the last American to win the French Open, which he did in 1999.
The current state of American men's tennis is somewhat bleak as it is. Only four men are in the top 50 in the world, and none see success on the clay.
Andy Roddick is starting to hit the dreaded wall, as he is now struggling to get past the round of 16 in many events. He has made it to the round of 16 at the French Open only once in his career.
Mardy Fish is 30 and had a good run in Miami, but can't be expected to do that much more. He has never made it past the second round at the French Open.
John Isner and Sam Querrey are good young players, but both need to become more consistent to be competitive. Isner made it to the third round at the French last year, while Querrey has never made it out of the first.
It's unfortunate that the Americans always struggle on the clay, but when almost all European and South American players grow up playing on it, the Americans really have no chance.
The clay is different to play on, and we don't know how to adjust. A grind-it-out game is needed instead of the game many Americans play now, which is end the point as quickly as you can.
It doesn't really help when you have the best player on clay of all-time in Rafael Nadal in your era, and maybe a top-five all-time clay player in Roger Federer. However, those guys don't really factor in if you can't beat a Maximo Gonzalez (who?) or Daniel Gimeno-Traver (who?) in the first round.
Even in Davis Cup matches, many countries will now pick clay to play on because they know that gives them a fighting chance to beat the Americans, even if they're not favored.
This clay court season looks like it will play out like any other over the past decade. The Americans will bow out early, or heck, they may not even show up to play.