On the eve of Independence Day, the last American representative in both men's and women's singles exited the championships yesterday, as Shenay Perry was overwhelmed 6-2, 6-0 by the seventh seed Elena Dementieva. It is America's poorest showing at Wimbledon for 84 years; not a man in the last 16; no women in the last eight. All gone by the Fourth of July. Even the multi-coloured shirt of Bud Collins, the veteran Boston Globe reporter with a famously garish taste in apparel, seemed to fade in the fierce sun beating down on No 3 Court.
In fairness, there has been no Lindsay Davenport or Serena Williams here to fly the Stars 'n' Stripes. And Maria Sharapova at leastsounds American. But however the Americans try to console themselves, the poor performance of their women cannot be described as some kind of weird one-off. The United States has had only one female standard-bearer in the second week of all three Grand Slams this year, and whereas for British tennis such a record would be cause to hang out the bunting and dance a conga all the way to Southfields tube station, for the Americans it constitutes a crisis.
Only fleetingly did Perry threaten to give her compatriots something to cheer about, breaking the Russian's first service game, having lost her own, to even things up at 2-2. After that, the 21-year-old from Coral Springs, Florida, was thoroughly outclassed by the seventh seed, and any pride she may have felt about being the last American standing soon ebbed away. Even at the best of times Perry has a hangdog demeanour, her head seeming to sit rather low on her shoulders. By the time Dementieva finished her off, in 54 minutes, she looked like Gladstone Small after being swatted for a third consecutive six.
It will be a particular source of regret to her that she did not force Dementieva, in what was their first meeting on any surface, to play anywhere near her best. The Russian struggled with her serve, sometimes to the extent that she seemed to be suffering a tennis form of the yips. But in an error-strewn match her formidable power was the telling difference, and when she goes for her shots, and gets them, she is one of the more impressive ball-strikers out there.
Meanwhile, the significance of this match should not be confined to bad news for American tennis. Not for two years have there been so few Russian women - three - in the second week of a Grand Slam. Last year, there were seven at the Australian Open, six at Roland Garros, six here, and four at Flushing Meadows. Maybe the new order is changing, as well as the old.
Still, 24-year-old Dementieva will not worry about that. Yesterday's victory was a personal milestone, for she had previously reached the fourth-round three times in her eight Wimbledon appearances, yet lost on each occasion.
Her quarter-final debut will take her career earnings to over $7m (£3.8m).Reuse content