Monday, 25 October 2010

Americans being left behind

This year, American professional tennis players have put up a particularly dismal performance at every Grand Slam event. The furthest that any American male player has reached in any of the four majors of 2010 is the quarter final of the Australian Open, where Andy Roddick put in an appearance.

Even this performance cannot be commended as anything out of the extraordinary, since Roddick has won the US Open championship, made Wimbledon finals thrice and has reached the semis at the Australian Open twice before.

Other USA players, who made a relative impact this year, are Sam Querrey, who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and the US Open and John Isner, who set a new record with his victory against Nicolas Mahut in the longest match ever to be held at Wimbledon, but imploded at the next round.

This progress is notably poor, when compared to America’s performance in 1995, four US players fought their way to the Australian Open semi finals, none of these players played in the first round of the Davis Cup and the US team still entered the tournament as prime favourites.

So where did US tennis go? Why is the state of the sport Americans such as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi ruled, so dismal?

One of the main reasons for this is that the rest of the World was, at some point, bound to catch up to the Americans. The current ATP Tour’s top five players are a testament to this, and to the fact that it is a recent development. For example, although tennis has always been a prominent sport in Spain, Rafael Nadal is the first player to win as many Grand Slams as he has – the number equals more than that of any other Spanish players, put together.

Similarly, Roger Federer of Switzerland and Serbian Novak Djokovic are the first men from their respective countries to win Grand Slams. Scottish Andy Murray, as yet Major-less, still seems to be Britain’s best shot at a Grand Slam. The competition has gotten stronger globally, and the Americans have been left behind.

Another reason for this lack of success is that American players have always faced trouble off hard courts. This is not just the lament of mediocre players, although it has been forgotten now, even Sampras and Agassi had trouble at Wimbledon when they set out.  This is because on a hard court, despite the size of your serve, the crispness of your volley and your immaculate return, what matters most is your adaptability to the hard court. The only player, who has managed this with finesse and speed, is Andy Roddick, but he has had the bad luck of facing Federer at every final.

One last, crucial reason for America’s lack of success on the hard courts is that, US players are just not the most talented players on the ATP Tour. Although, players like Roddick and Isner have tried to make the best of their opportunities, for the most part, the current batch of players lack ability and swift movement or groundstrokes, which could match the ATP’s top five.

James Blake may have that potential, but his forehand is weak and inconsistent, and his injuries have left him handicapped and unable to achieve greatness.

This is the vast difference in today’s tennis players and those in the era of John McEnroe, Sampras and Agassi. America has never lacked talent before. Take Andy Roddick for example, in the past few years, he has done as much, if not more, as an ATP top five player to improve his game.

However, he will always lack Rafa or the Maestro’s ability to cover the court. And his backhand will never be as strong as theirs. This is the hardest problem to overcome, and if new players are not discovered soon, the closest American players can expect to get to success at the US Open is watching their opponents shatter records.
Courtesy: Bettor

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