Wonder if this article's been posted. I just couldn't make head or tail of it, except that its a load of crap. Can someone explain?
The male American Dream, athletic division, is now this: Every little boy hopes to grow up to become a good enough player to someday be celebrated with his own bobblehead doll.
Certainly, we know, too, that the best young male American athletes are not concentrating on tennis anymore. The U.S. Open, which is now the richest sports event in the world, opened this week with only four homegrown men among the 32 seeded players. It was not that long ago that half of all male tournament players were from the United States, but as tennis has become more and more international, American representation has dropped off precipitously.
The American presence in men's tennis is actually even more diminished than it seems, because two of the four seeded U.S. players are Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, both of whom are over 30 -- dotage, in a physically demanding sport where players rarely compete past their 20s. Poor Sampras seems to have aged overnight. Until very recently everybody kept asking whether he would ever win another tournament. Sadly, now, with every tournament he enters, it's problematic that he'll even win a match.
Agassi's decline has not been quite so dramatic, but he is clearly not the commanding force he was only a couple of years ago, and it seems only a short while before he bows out and joins his wife, Steffi Graf, in a contented life of parenthood and desert leisure.
This leaves U.S. men's tennis in the hands of the 25th-seeded James Blake and, most particularly, with Andy Roddick. The 11th-seeded Roddick will celebrate his 20th birthday this Friday, and, is, incredibly, the only serious American championship hope for the immediate future -- this from a country that has rarely failed to have at least one player at the top of the tree. Indeed, except for the 1960s, the United States has produced a great male tennis champion in every decade of the 20th century.
Moreover, starting before World War I with Maurice McLoughlin , who was known as the California Comet, almost all of the top Americans were, like Sampras, great servers. The Comet, Bill Tilden, Ellsworth Vines, Don Budge, Jack Kramer, Pancho Gonzales, Tony Trabert, Arthur Ashe and John McEnroe all had offensive games where the serve was paramount, where attacking the net was the purpose. Only Jimmy Connors didn't fit that mold, and he was certainly aggressive enough after his own fashion. So, too, did the great Australians play serve-and-volley when they ruled tennis.
Now, though, as the Europeans have taken control of men's tennis, the game has begun to mimic their favorite team sport. Tennis has been soccer-ized. Tennis now is played almost entirely from the baseline, side-to-side rather than up and out. The slashing, advancing style always favored by the best Americans -- analogous to the home run, the fast break, the long pass -- has been superceded by the more patient, wearing Euro-soccer style. The large, kryptonite rackets allow players to hit harder than ever, but it's not a vigorous, exciting, advancing power. Tennis used to be cavalry. Sound the bugle! Now it's artillery. Mark the coordinates.
Curious as it may be for this nation of immigrants, we Americans have never cottoned to foreign athletes. Now that men's tennis is not only dominated by non-Americans, but also played in an un-American style, you have to wonder how long the U.S. Open -- and the game itself -- can sustain popularity here.