Since 2003, American tennis fans have experienced a long and seemingly insatiable Grand Slam title drought. Andy Roddick won the U.S. Open that year, and never won another. To make matters worse, nobody has been there to take his spot as a strong Slam contender.
Having said that, it is starting to seem like things could be turning around for the United States, as play in the first five rounds of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells has helped to confirm this theory.
Not all American tennis players have represented their country well in the past few days. Currently the No. 31 player in the world, Roddick continued to disappoint by losing in the third round to No. 7 Tomas Berdych. The loss was understandable because Andy was considered the underdog going into the match. However, at this late stage in his career, he needs to be able to prove his worth against the top players in order to stay relevant, but he has been failing to do that recently.
No. 8 Mardy Fish, who had the best season of his career in 2011, also failed to impress American audiences at Indian Wells. He was dismissed in the third round also, but his loss was to unseeded Matthew Ebden, which is less forgivable in the eyes of the fans. Fish has hit the age of 30, and if he falters away from his 2011 success now, he likely won't see it again before retirement.
It is quickly becoming clear that these veterans are on their way out of the tennis world. Luckily for their country, though, another group of players is emerging to take their place. This became more evident with play at Indian Wells.
For starters, 26-year-old John Isner is proving that although he is well into his 20's, it's not too late for success. The 2012 BNP Paribas Open marks his second consecutive semifinal appearance at a Masters event (also reached SF in Paris at the end of 2011), and the road to get there was far from easy. Along the way, Isner took down the 22 seed (Juan Monaco) and the 13 seed (Giles Simon).
As of now, Isner is sitting at a career high spot of No. 11 in the rankings, and if he continues to exhibit this kind of play, we can expect him to rise even higher before the 2012 season reaches its conclusion.
Also rising on the men's side is 19-year-old Ryan Harrison. As the top American prospect, Harrison has been surrounded with plenty of hype for a few years now, and many fans are expecting him to be the next superstar from the U.S.
It seems like a high-pressure role, but so far, he's handling it well. At Indian Wells, Harrison reached the fourth round for the second consecutive year, beating 25-seeded Serbian Viktor Troicki in the process. His three-set loss to GIles Simon ended his campaign there, but not before he was able to prove himself in the clutch; on two different occasions in that match, he managed to break his opponent to save the set.
Even without looking at the scores of his matches, Harrison impressed spectators with the quality of his play. With a solid serve and strong groundstrokes, it is looking like he will be ready to take on some of the game's top players in just a few years' time.
Harrison has shown talent, strength, and the ability to please a crowd; all important traits for a player looking to represent the United States. It shouldn't be too long before he is the face of American tennis.
Finally, let's not forget Christina McHale from the women's side, who has been rising in the rankings and further proved herself this past week.
McHale also reached the fourth round of Indian Wells before falling at the hands of 18-seeded Angelique Kerber. That loss didn't take any prestige away from her previous match, though, in which she took down world No. 3 Petra Kvitova.
McHale is currently the No. 34 woman in the WTA rankings, and with play like this, she definitely has the potential to see the Top 20 by the end of 2012.
For American tennis fans, the past few seasons have been rough. With little representation in the major tournaments, it has been frustrating for U.S. audiences to see players from their country continuously lose to their superiors. Players like Isner, McHale, and Harrison have been successful in reassuring these fans that there is hope for American tennis though, and their play at Indian Wells gives the United States a reason to be excited for the coming years.