Andy Roddick tired of US tennis questions

Andy Roddick, understandably, is rather tired of hearing the question, in one form or another: What's wrong with U.S. tennis?

When a local reporter raised the subject at a tournament in Rome last week, Roddick replied wryly: "No bigger crisis than Italian tennis."



A little later, Roddick added: "As far as harping on American tennis, I think we're kind of a victim of our own success over the years in the sport. If you still stack us up against most countries, we're coming out ahead."



Well, yes, that is true. What's also true is this: The United States has reached a low point in tennis. Not merely because the country no longer churns out new champions with regularity, but also because it is not really relevant at the top of the game right now.



Earlier this month, for the first time in more than 35 years of computerized rankings, no player from the U.S. appeared in the ATP or WTA top 10. Plus, the last American man to win a Grand Slam singles title was Roddick, at the 2003 U.S. Open — 29 major tournaments ago. If, as expected, that drought continues at the French Open, which starts Sunday in Paris, the gap will equal the longest in history for U.S. men — a 30-Slam shutout from 1955-63.



To Roddick's point, that's nothing compared to what some others are enduring: Andy Murray has lost three major finals in his bid to become the first British man since 1936 to win a Grand Slam title.



Yet the recent American problems are a stark change for a nation that has produced players such as Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Arthur Ashe, Don Budge, Bill Tilden, the Williams sisters, Lindsay Davenport, Tracy Austin, Chris Evert and Billie Jean King, to name only some.



"We're so used to having champions for the last, oh, century," said Venus Williams, owner of seven major singles titles. "Right now is something we're not used to."



When it comes to taking home trophies, Roddick and the rest of the American men have been forced to deal with the same obstacle everyone else has for the past several years: The consistent excellence of a couple of guys from Switzerland (Roger Federer) and Spain (Rafael Nadal).



Those two countries — well, those two men — alone account for 24 of the 29 Grand Slam men's singles titles since Roddick's victory in New York. The others have gone to Serbia (two to Novak Djokovic, whose Australian Open championship in January is part of his 37-0 record heading into the French Open), Argentina (one each to Juan Martin del Potro and Gaston Gaudio) and Russia (Marat Safin). Roddick has come close, playing in four Grand Slam finals from 2004-09, but losing each to Federer.



"Clearly, the game has been dominated by a couple of players," said former U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe, John's brother, "and clearly, we have a lot of work to do."



In this week's rankings, there's only one man or woman in the top 10: No. 10 Mardy Fish, followed by Roddick at No. 11. The top American women are Serena Williams at 17th, and Venus Williams at 29th; neither has played in months. Bethanie Mattek-Sands is next at 36th.



Here's another indication of where things stand: Some of the biggest bits of news connected to U.S. tennis in the run-up to Roland Garros have been the withdrawals of the Williams sisters; the release of a book about John McEnroe's rivalry with Bjorn Borg decades ago; and a public back-and-forth between Donald Young, a 21-year-old American who recently returned to the top 100, and the U.S. Tennis Association, a spat involving a French Open wild-card entry he didn't get and a nasty tweet he posted in frustration.



As for the American men's title chances in Paris, consider these career records there: Roddick is 9-9, Fish is 2-5, 26th-ranked Sam Querrey is 0-4, and 39th-ranked John Isner is 2-2. They have one fourth-round match in 20 French Open appearances among them; that was in 2009 by Roddick, whose participation this year was put in doubt by a recent shoulder injury.



There are a total of nine U.S. men 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). There are only four Americans 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."

Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk