Americans in a shadow as international stars shine

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A total of nine U.S. men are in the top 100 this week, the same number as Germany and France - and five fewer than Spain (a country with a population about one-sixth that of the United States). Only four Americans are in the ATP top 50, the same number as Argentina and only one more than Italy; Spain has 10 in the top 50.

“The game got so global just in the past 10, 15 years. … Tennis in America has slowed down. It’s not as dominant. It doesn’t make me feel sad or angry. It’s just a reality check,” said Sampras, who won 14 Grand Slam titles and finished No. 1 in the rankings a record six years in a row. “We’re fine. We have some good young players. But they’re not Grand Slam winners and they’re not No. 1 in the world, so it might take some time.”

On the women’s side, the U.S. Fed Cup team lost 5-0 to Germany in April and was eliminated from the competition’s top tier for the first time, meaning the 17-time champion Americans now need to win their way back to the elite level.

And no American woman has won a WTA or Grand Slam title since Serena Williams at Wimbledon in July, a span of 50 tournaments. During that stretch, only one woman from the U.S., Mattek-Sands, even has reached a final.

“If I knew why other countries were having success, we’d be copying it quickly,” Venus Williams said. “It’s happening right now, but it doesn’t mean it’s something that’ll be forever.”

That’s probably true. Still, there are those who figure the wait will drag on.

“I don’t have a magic pill or a magic answer to say, ‘We’ve got to start doing this or that.’ We just need a couple of athletes to figure it out and find their way and sort of become freaks of nature,” said Sampras, who came up through the juniors with Agassi (eight major titles), Courier (four) and Michael Chang (one). “It might be a few years until it happens.”

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