The simmering crisis in US men's tennis

Who is the best men's tennis player from the United States? Many shrug their shoulders. The times of Pete Sampras and Andrei Agassi are long gone and the immediate future doesn't look too bright either.

Staff Reporter
21 June 2014, 8:52am
Pete Sampras seen in 2000. No US player has won the men's singles crown at Wimbledon since then. Photo by Juri Kadobnow/EPA
Pete Sampras seen in 2000. No US player has won the men's singles crown at Wimbledon since then. Photo by Juri Kadobnow/EPA
When you think about US men's tennis of yesterday, names like Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi immediately spring to mind.

Pete Sampras was near to tears when he defeated Pat Rafter in four sets to win the Wimbledon men's final for the seventh time on July 9, 2000.

It was the 29-year-old's last triumph at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, and no tennis player from the United States has won the men's singles crown there since.

Fourteen years is a long time to wait for success, and it looks as though the wait will go on for the once-proud tennis nation.

When the latest edition of the world's most prestigious Grand Slam tournament gets under way on Monday, there is no US player in sight to succeed 'Pistol Pete'.

In the age of stars like Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer, the best the US can offer is John Isner, seeded ninth and the only US player among the 32 seeds.

"It's a different league," former world number one Sampras, now 42, told the German magazine Tennis. "We Americans have been overtaken by the rest of the world."

At 32, Serena Williams is still difficult to beat, but for years her male counterparts have played no more than a spectator roll in the decisive phases of the world's major tournaments.

The golden eras of stars like Sampras, Agassi, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe has long past.

"The others are better," said Sampras. "I think the Americans are miles behind and I don't know what we can do about it."

During his career, Sampras won 14 Grand Slam titles, seven of them on the grass courts of Wimbledon.

Isner is the best US player at the moment, ranked 11th in the world. His best result to date was a quarter-final spot in the US Open three years ago.

He is the only US tennis player in the top 60. He's followed by Steve Johnson and Donald Young, ranked 68th and 69th.

The last American to win a Grand Slam title was Andy Roddick, who took the US Open crown in 2003.

"We reminisce in the memories of great times in the past and hope that we'll one day find a new champion," McEnroe told tennisnet.com.

At last year's Wimbledon no US man made it to the third round, the first time this happened for more than a century. The old stars have been trying to figure out how things could come to such a state.

Sampras blamed complacency on the part of today's generation of players, saying they are "too soft" and too easily content with what they achieve.

Courier, another former world number one who currently manages the US Davis Cup team, says: "There are a lot of talented players who fail to make the most of their talent."

The magazine The Atlantic said the Grand Slam drought is bound to end at some stage.

Courier hopes the Davis Cup, the world's most important team tennis event, could prove a starting point.