Grand Slam Drought Haunts US Men as Open Looms
Pete Sampras won his last major at the 2002 US Open and Andre Agassi's final Slam trophy was hoisted at the 2003 Australian Open. Then came Andy Roddick at the 2003 US Open, a win that helped him to world number one until February of 2004.
Not since Andy Roddick's 2003 US Open victory has an American man captured a Grand Slam title, a drought of 47 events entering the US Open that starts Monday.
A legendary US generation led by 14-time Grand Slam winner Pete Sampras and eight-time major champion Andre Agassi failed to produce a similar legacy, with Swiss icon Roger Federer and Spain's Rafael Nadal seizing command of men's tennis. (Serena Williams Chases History at US Open)
Sampras won his last major at the 2002 US Open and Agassi's final Slam trophy was hoisted at the 2003 Australian Open. Then came Roddick at the 2003 US Open, a win that helped him to world number one until February of 2004.
Since then, no US man has held the top spot. And since 2011, there have been no Americans in the year-end ATP top 10, the last such man being Mardy Fish, who will retire after this year's US Open.
This week, 30-year-old John Isner carries the mantle of US number one at 13th in the world rankings. The 10-time ATP winner says the state of US men's tennis is strong with a host of 20-somethings following in his wake.
"I don't feel any extra pressure being the number one American. I do take pride in being the number one American," Isner said. "I know these American guys are nipping at my heels. But I still look at it as my spot."
But big-serving Isner has been unable to crack the elite levels at Grand Slams, his deepest major run only to the 2011 US Open quarter-finals.
The only other American man to be seeded in the Flushing Meadows fortnight is 28th-ranked Jack Sock, the youngest of the new group at 22 who won his first ATP title in April on Houston clay.
"I'm just beginning but it seems like every year we have some Americans advancing," Sock said. "We're playing pretty well."
Isner won his 10th career title in July at Atlanta and has won at least one event for six consecutive seasons, but all came at at the lowest ATP level and only two were beyond US borders, both in Auckland.
He reached a career-best of ninth but has not cracked the top 10 in 15 months.
"He has held that flag high for us. I look up to him a great deal," said 49th-ranked Steve Johnson.
Sam Querrey, 27, ranks 38th and won the most recent of seven career titles in 2012, staying ahead of Donald Young and Denis Kudla among the young American hopefuls.
It was only 15 years ago when Agassi won the Australian Open to put all four Slam titles in US hands, Sampras owning Wimbledon and Agassi the other three.
No US man has advanced past the third round of the US Open singles for the past two years, the only times in the 134-year history of the event that has happened.
That led the US Tennis Association to fire Pat McEnroe, the brother of seven-time Grand Slam champion John McEnroe, as general manager of player development during last year's tournament.
"When both my brother and I are asked what's wrong with American tennis, much more so American men's tennis, we need great athletes," Pat McEnroe said. "In addition to a lot of other issues, we need great athletes."
With fewer US tournaments, and therefore fewer on American television, that might become harder to produce as competition for talent increases from the NBA, NFL and football.