Thursday 1 August 2013
As the Grand Slam caravan shifts from Wimbledon to the US Open, so too does the domestic focus, as American tennis fans begin the annual debate about whether one of their own will be left holding the trophy at Flushing Meadows. Wimbledon.com takes a look at how likely that may be.
In British terms, or even French and Australian terms, the 10 years since an American man won the US Open (Andy Roddick, pictured above), might seem pretty insignificant but to a nation brought up on success, the pressure to perform on their biggest stage is immense. While world No.1 Serena Williams continues to lead the way for the country’s women, John Isner is the only American man in the world’s top 20 (at No.20), a far cry from the days of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and most recently Andy Roddick.
Many countries, including Britain, would surely be delighted to have six men in the top 100, as the US does, but this is a country who, as McEnroe puts it himself, has been spoilt by great success over the years. . “Clearly, Americans have come to expect and want grand slam contenders and winners,” he said. “We’ve had some excellent players. Sam Querrey has been a solid professional, very solid. John Isner got to 10 in the world. Mardy Fish got to the top 10 before it overwhelmed him. If you want to compete and win majors at this stage, the athleticism necessary is becoming even more exceptional. That’s something we have to try to search out and provide the opportunity for kids that don’t have it. That’s the biggest thing.”
From a time when McEnroe and co. romped to US Open titles for three decades, no American has made a US Open semi-final since 2006, when Roddick lost to Federer in the final. At Wimbledon this year, no American man made it even as far as the third round, their worst showing since the Titanic sank more than 100 years ago.
Like any country, what happens on home soil tends to be given more importance than normal and actually, the current crop of American men have been better at home than anywhere else. Veteran James Blake, who has fought back to a ranking of 77 after injury, made the semis in New York in 2005 while Isner and Querrey have both been to the last eight, exceeding the expectation of their rankings.
Furthermore, Isner has won six of his seven titles in the United States. Five of Blake’s 10 titles have come at home and Querrey has picked up five of his seven tournament wins on home soil. Even Roddick won 21 of his 32 titles at home. Some of the American men have been criticised for being poor travellers but home advantage is a big deal and Isner explained why.
“I just really enjoy it here,” he said in Atlanta last week. “I play a tournament in Atlanta that’s so close to (the University of Georgia, where he went to college), which is awesome. I play another tournament in Winston-Salem, which is where I grew up. I play in (Washington) D.C., where I’ve had such unbelievable memories. I always seem to be at a happy place and from that I tend to play my best. I feel like I’ve always been more relaxed in the States. I don’t know what it is. It’s something that I need to get better at. I need to start playing better in Europe.”
Things are better on the women’s side, with Serena Williams backed up by Sloane Stephens (ranked 15), Jamie Hampton (24) and a number of other rising stars, including Madison Keys (40). But Americans crave success so for their sake, let’s hope Williams does the business again at Flushing Meadows next month.
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