- The Washington Times - Friday, June 27, 2008

Andy Roddick and James Blake again entered a Grand Slam tournament as America’s best hopes for a title on the men’s side.

And they again were sent home early by lower-ranked opponents, leaving the United States with little chance to bust through with its first men’s singles title in a Grand Slam since 2003.

The second-round losses by Roddick and Blake at Wimbledon on Thursday were upsets based on seed, but they have become routine for those two. It’s clear that neither man has the weapons, consistency or mental toughness to guarantee seeing the second weekend of a Grand Slam. And with few other American men appearing on the cusp of greatness, it is not too dramatic to say the state of men’s tennis in the United States has reached one of its lowest points in history.

In fairness, few countries outside Switzerland, Spain and Serbia can boast of great Grand Slam results on the men’s side in recent years. No player not named Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic has won a major title since Marat Safin’s victory at the Australian Open in 2005.

But American men aren’t just losing to the top three players. Roddick could be forgiven if he was racing to Grand Slam finals only to fall to Federer. But his loss Thursday came against Janko Tipsarevic, ranked just 40th in the world. Suddenly, Roddick’s U.S. Open win in 2003 seems very far away.

Blake, meanwhile, lost to Rainer Schuettler, a 32-year-old now barely ranked inside the top 100. Blake’s loss in January to Federer in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open is acceptable, but his second-round loss to teenager Ernests Gulbis at the French Open is less so.

It is lot to ask for American tennis to replicate the era of Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Andre Agassi. But people forget that era also had players like Todd Martin and MaliVai Washington, who fell short of winning Grand Slam titles but could be counted on for tournament runs.

But outside of Blake and Roddick, no active American player has had a sniff of Grand Slam success. The last American left at Wimbledon is Bobby Reynolds, who has made it past the second round of a major once in nine attempts. Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey have failed to make it past the third round of a major this year, with both exiting in the first round in London. Robbie Ginepri made an inspired run to the fourth round of this year’s French Open but is no longer a threat to break into the top 20. Meanwhile, last year’s Legg Mason finalist, John Isner, has failed to show he’s anything more than a tall man with a big serve.

On the women’s side, things are looking a bit better in London, with Venus and Serena Williams on course for a possible family showdown in the Wimbledon final. But outside the Williams sisters (who are inconsistent anyway) who’s left? Lindsay Davenport withdrew from Wimbledon after injuring her knee and at 32 is in the twilight of her career. Beyond her, there are no other American women ranked in the top 50 in the world, and none has shown the ability to win more than a round or two in the Grand Slams.

After Wimbledon, the Americans will have a summer to play around on the comfort of the hard courts before making a last-ditch effort to secure a Grand Slam win at the U.S. Open. But for the first time in years, the conversation may center around Americans avoiding embarrassment.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide