Today is the first installment of a new column where I will rant about something happening in the tennis world. It may be a news reaction, a complaint about something that bothers me on court, or anything else I feel like writing about. You may agree, you may disagree, and you may even think I’m an idiot. In that case you would be wrong, but anyways, check back weekly and see what’s on my mind.
This is a Public Service Announcement to all American tennis fans: STOP waiting for the next Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.
It is time we all took a deep breath, and instead of proclaiming that American men’s tennis is dead after John Isner bows out in the fourth round of ANOTHER Grand Slam, we look around and show some appreciation for what we DO have. No, we do not have Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and other American legends atop the game anymore. In fact, Agassi retired nearly 10 years ago, marking the end of an era where we were SPOILED for decades.
But, if you look past the top 10 players in the world, American tennis is just fine. Actually, there are a number of high quality players toting the American flag around, and an unfair, debilitating weight of expectations. John Isner has hovered around #10 in the world for years, by all accounts, overachieving having come out of college with no expectation of professional success. Donald Young has turned it around and made several grand slam runs a decade after he turned pro and had his confidence crushed beneath his relatively undersized frame and our over-sized expectations. Steve Johnson and Jack sock, both powerful, very entertaining players are both at nearly their career high ranking and should both likely be seeded at next years’ Australian Open.
Very few other countries can claim to have as many players ranked in the top 50 and 100 in the world. Americans, unlike their European counterparts, also have to compete with top junior athletes choosing sports like baseball, basketball and football over the much less popular tennis. And yet, when you look beyond the top names at the new crop of young talent hiding in the rankings between 100-500 in the world, it is widely believed that the next generation of American talent is deeper and holding more potential than any in recent memory. You may not have heard the names Francis Tiafoe, Stefan Kozlov, Jared Donaldson, Noah Rubin and Taylor Fritz. That’s ok, but you will. These names are the reason that American tennis fans need to drop the cynicism oozing out of every conversation about the state of American tennis.
Sure, compared to the Sampras/Agassi era, we haven’t seen enough American flags hoisted during trophy presentations, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s been a dark time. It’s an unfair comparison, especially when the most recent era has been highlighted by the dominance of the “Big Four” who have been on an unprecedented run only just beginning to enter its twilight. We need to inject a little perspective into just how spoiled we were, and realize that the future is bright. In a few years, will we see an American sweep at the Grand Slams? That is unlikely, too. We need to appreciate what we have, support our future stars, and hope that maybe one day, we will have a golden era like we experienced in the ’90s again.
For now, lets see what Isner, Young, Johnson and Sock can do, and worst case… I don’t mind watching Djoker, Fed and Nadal, do you?