If you were to ask the casual tennis fan to name as many American male tennis players off of the top of their head as possible, most would easily name Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick and John Isner. After these three, a blank would be drawn.
The lack of resurgence from American male players since the end of the Sampras-Agassi era has been disappointing in the eyes of many fans to say the least. The only two American players to have reached a Grand Slam semifinal since 2003 are Andre Agassi and Roddick.
The letdown of American male tennis players in the last five to seven years is often viewed incorrectly. Many believe that there simply has been a lag in American talent. This statement is easily falsifiable. Currently, there are nine Americans in the top 100 in the world. This is the most of any country apart from Spain and France.
Now this begs question of whether or not there has actually been a letdown of talent or a failure of high expectations?
I think undoubtedly the latter is the answer. Following the legacies of greats such as Agassi, Sampras and Courier is no short task. It would be unreasonable to expect any group of any players from any country during any time period to achieve on the same level as these Americans did during the '80s and '90s.
If you go back in history, the only country since the beginning of the open era (1968) to achieve something comparable to what the Americans of the 1990s achieved were the Swedes in the '70s and '80s.
Mats Wilander, Bjorn Borg and Stefan Edberg combined for 24 Grand Slams over an 18 year period. The combination of Agassi, Sampras, Courier, collected 27 Grand Slams in 13 years.
A prime example of a player that has “failed” in the eyes of many Americans is Donald Young. When Young was a junior people were sighting him as the next big star and a shoe in as a future world No. 1.
They based these notions off his success at the Junior National Championships in Kalamazoo which he won at the age of 15. Ranked 89th in the world in August, Young, aged 22, has already been considered a bust by many.
In my estimation, it is extremely premature to declare the career of a 22-year-old a disappointment and based off his results at the Legg Mason Classic, the US Open and in Bangkok, Young is proving his critics wrong.
Ending the year ranked 39 in the world, I fully expect the young American (no pun intended) to climb even further in the rankings holding a vast amount of confidence stemming from his 2011 successes.
With players on the rise such as Mardy Fish, Ryan Harrison, Sam Querrey, Donald Young, John Isner, Alex Bogomolov Jr. and Ryan Sweeting, the future of American tennis appears to be very promising. And while this group of players will unlikely achieve the greatness of those in the 1990s, it would be wise to give the surging American talent a second glance in 2012.