Drought of American men in danger of continuing at U.S. Open

The hard-serving John Isner is the top-ranked American at the U.S. Open. Credit: Getty Images
The hard-serving John Isner is the top-ranked American at the U.S. Open.
Credit: Getty Images

An American woman may very well win the U.S. Open if Serena Williams continues her dominant form over the next two weeks.

Yet the chances of an American man capturing this championship — or any other major in the foreseeable future — are about as likely as Miley Cyrus avoiding twerking.

At the start of Wednesday’s play, six American men were through to the second round, with 6-foot-10 John Isner and his rocket serve owning the best chance at winning.

“I’m playing well and I’m enjoying what I’m doing,” the former Georgia Bulldog and No. 13 seed said after his first-round victory over Italian Filippo Volandri. “I don’t really feel any extra pressure to perform well because I am currently the No. 1 American.”

No American man has won a major since Andy Roddick served his way to the U.S. Open title in 2003. That was 40 Grand Slam events ago.

That span has coincided with the rise of the “Big 4” of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, who have combined to win 33 of the last 34 majors.

By contrast, from 1974-84, Americans Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe won the Open in nine of 11 years.

From 1993-2003, Americans Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Roddick took the Flushing Meadows crown seven of 11 times.

No American has even reached the quarterfinals of a major since 2011, and that streak is in jeopardy of reaching two full years if someone can’t advance to the quarters here.

Isner’s draw isn’t favorable, either. In the fourth round, he could face Nadal, the tournament favorite and owner of a 16-0 record on hardcourts in 2013. The winner of the Isner-Nadal match could meet the 17-time major winner Federer in the quarters.

Isner lost to Nadal in two tiebreaks in the recent final in Cincinnati, giving both players confidence coming into New York.

“Not only did I face him in a final,” Isner said, “I faced him in a final where he was coming off just winning the week before. He’s full of confidence. He’s as good as he is. When he’s very, very confident he’s even tougher.”

Other than Isner, none of the other five Americans so far in the second round — No. 26 Sam Querrey, Jack Sock, Donald Young, Bradley Klahn or Denis Kudla — is likely to challenge for a major title.

“Obviously we’re in a little bit of a rough go with our top men at the moment,” said Patrick McEnroe, general manager of player development of the USTA. “We’re well aware of that. We’ve been well aware of that for a number of years, even before Andy Roddick retired, which obviously surprised us all.

“Obviously Isner doing well the last couple weeks has been nice to see that he’s starting to fulfill his potential. Hopefully he can make a run in New York. I think some of the younger guys, like Harrison and Sock and Kudla and Steve Johnson, they’re starting to train together a lot more and work a lot harder. I think we’ll see them start to step up soon as well.”

John McEnroe, a hardcore Knicks fan and winner of seven Grand Slam titles, suggested on a recent conference call that maybe the tennis establishment should recruit some 7-footers to play tennis.

“We have two choices: We either get better athletes. It’s not that some of these guys aren’t good athletes, but we need truly great athletes, try to nab some of the kids playing some other sports, offer that opportunity to guys [who are] 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, or we go with guys that are 7-foot and serve, like, 150 [mph].

“All of a sudden, some guy could come along that could just make life absolutely miserable for almost any player and could do pretty much almost anything. It’s getting closer. You can look at the [Juan Martin] Del Potros, [Jerzy] Janowicz, John Isner, [Ivo] Karlovic. He was 6-foot-10. People don’t want to play these guys. What happens when the guy is 7-foot-1, 7-foot-2? Imagine what his serve would do.”

Until that mystery 7-footer comes along, the American drought continues.

Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter @AdamZagoria for updates throughout the U.S. Open.


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