For years as a tennis fan I’ve watched and waited for Andy Roddick to live up to his potential and become the next Jimmy Conners or John McEnroe. What has happened instead has been a series of meltdowns, shortcomings and malfunctions in his game that have driven me insane as well as every American tennis fan.
Roddick came along at the perfect time, when men’s tennis was drowning in mediocrity and we had trouble deciding whether Patrick Rafter or Marat Safin were the heirs to Pete Sampras’s throne. He had a terrific serve, the face and the game to back it up. However it never came to fruition. Roddick won one U.S. Open and by the next August we were asking, “Who’s got mojo like Roddick?” Apparently not Roddick because his defense lasted one round and he hasn’t been a threat since.
He was America’s great hope for tennis, hell, the entire group he came in with we’re hyped up as the next great ones of mens tennis.
Marty Fish, James Blake and Roddy Ginepri along with Roddick were supposed to carry on the legacy that was left behind after the Sampras-Agassi years. Instead what they’ve done has left a stain, if that, during their era instead of a major impact.
Only Roddick has made a Grand Slam final and the others haven’t even made a semifinal. While you can place blame on Fish’s injuries and Blake’s bout with depression, all in all the last eight years in American mens tennis has been an absolute failure.
This has been the Federer-Nadal era. Two middle European players who have made the ATP tour look like the AL East and everyone else has playing for third. In Nadal’s case he has led a charge by Spain to the top of the ATP rankings. Spanish tennis has dominated the top half of the rankings with seven players, including Nadal in the top 25 and Fernando Verdasco joining him in the top 10 at number 8. That was the dominance that U.S. Had envisioned years ago but has fallen well short of the expectation it imagined.
So what is the state of American mens tennis? Though Roddick is in the top ten in rankings he has been sliding down rapidly. Also he is 28 years which in tennis is equivalent to a 30 year old running back. He can continue to be a competitive player but he won’t be contending for majors much longer.
The hope lies in two players who like Roddick have big serves and lots of game. John Isner and Sam Querrey have bursted onto the scene in the last year by upping their game in hopes of contending with their Spanish counterparts.
Isner if you recall is the marathon man who’s Wimbledon match with Nicolas Mahut ran three days and came down to an epic third set with Isner prevailing 70-68 (god that still sounds ridiculous to say months later. That’s a ridiculous football score, ask new Mexico who got beat 72-0 this weekend by Oregon. But tennis? That’s silly.). However, Isner hasn’t made it past the fourth round of a major and has won one title on his career.
Querrey on the other hand has won four this year in what is becoming a break out year for him. With his fourth round appearance and beyond at the U.S. Open this year he should be knocking on the top ten by next years Australian Open.
The biggest buzz however had come from 18 year old Ryan Harrison from California. Harrison’s first round win and second round exit caused a huge stir at the Open and has started a new hype machine for the next generation of American men.
The baby faced Harrison has already been dubbed our new hope in the tennis world. While that may be the case, I would ask that we tread lightly with Harrison. As we’ve learned from the Roddick years too much hype can be a bad thing, and living up to it can be even harder.