View Full Version : Death of American Tennis

May 28th, 2010, 11:13 AM


Approaching extinction of U.S. tennis
If you want to see Americans winning titles, especially Slams, tune in now

Catch them while you can. Wave your flags. Root, root, root for Andy Roddick and the Williams sisters. Do it now. Love 'em or not, take a snapshot because they're the last of a breed, the endangered species of American tennis champions.

After them, extinct. Gone. Done. Think dodo birds.

Or so it seems right now.

Roddick has won only a single Grand Slam, and it was so long ago (U.S Open, '03) we still thought housing prices could only go up and few people outside of Hyde Park had heard of Barack Obama. But Roddick remains the No. 8-ranked player in the world, and is still a threat to boom his way to a Slam, and he's married to a supermodel.

After Roddick, the highest-ranked American men are John Isner (No. 19), someone named Sam Querrey (No. 22) and German-born Tommy Haas (No. 23), who became a U.S. citizen this year. From there you won't find another American man in the rankings until Mike Russell (No. 82) and the still popular but fading James Blake (No. 83). Isner, Querrey, Russell and Blake have won 15 singles titles (none of them Grand Slams), but 10 of them belong to Blake.
[+] EnlargeJohn Isner
Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesIn case you hadn't noticed, John Isner is the highest-ranked American after Andy Roddick.

Venus and Serena? They're history in the flesh (literally, at times). Baby and Big Sister, straight outta Compton, are the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world, the first siblings to achieve such a distinction since, well, Venus and Serena did it in May 2003. They have won 79 singles titles (19 of which are Slams), plus doubles and mixed doubles Slam titles. Most importantly, they've defined this generation of women's tennis. Since 2002 when Venus first reached No. 1, seven women not named Williams have been No. 1, and yet here Venus and Serena are, still thriving, lingerie outfits and whatnot, still at the summit of the game.

Which Americans behind them might reach such a pinnacle some day? Please. No one I see carrying the red, white and blue right now. The next-highest-ranked American woman is U.S. Open darling Melanie Oudin, at No. 37. Yet we've heard nary a peep since her coming out at Flushing Meadows last fall, when she became the youngest player since Serena to reach the quarterfinals, defeating fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva and Maria Sharapova en route.

Then comes Vania King at No. 69. Neither survived the first round at Roland Garros.

Among the "next" American men, only Isner reached the second round. Querrey and Russell lost in the opening round, and Blake didn't play in the tournament. (Taylor Dent, Robby Ginepri and Mardy Fish, a trio of players with lower expectations and approaching 30, also won opening matches.)

So catch The Contenders now. Roddick is just 27; Serena is a year older. Venus turns 30 in June. Physically, they should be around for at least a few more years. But fatigue and other, sexier endeavors may tug them away sooner than you know, and when it happens, tennis in the U.S. will become, well, soccer.

No, it will be worse.

As soccer, the world's most popular sport, prepares for its quadrennial global orgy, it continues to gain steady footing in the U.S. among sports fans. American Landon Donovan is certainly higher on the buzz meter than any American male tennis player not named Roddick (did I tell you he was married to a super-swimsuit model?).

Meanwhile, save for a couple of torrid weeks in the fall, and the weekends when we watch the finals of the French and Wimbledon, tennis doesn't even register a blip on our radar anymore. Interestingly, grass-roots participation in the sport has never been higher. The 2009 TIA/USTA Tennis Participation study shows that total tennis participation tops 30 million players for the first time in the 22-year history of the survey.

[+] EnlargeMelanie Oudin
Julian Finney/Getty ImagesMelanie Oudin, like many U.S. players, looked good on the faster courts of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, but she's disappeared since.

On the flip side, television ratings are tumbling, even for the biggest events. When Americans Andre Agassi and Serena Williams won the 1999 U.S. Open men's and women's singles titles, an average of 3.5 million television viewers watched each telecast. Three years ago, when Switzerland's Roger Federer and Belgium's Justine Henin won the titles, that average had slumped to just 1.9 million viewers. (Viewership was up last year.)

The impact of an American champion is perhaps most stark at Wimbledon, which no American man has won since Pete Sampras in 2000. That year, more than 4 million U.S. viewers watched the event. By 2006, that number had plummeted to 2 million. Even with a slight uptick since, the audience has remained below 3 million. Interestingly, American women (or rather, a Williams) have won eight of the past 10 Wimbledon singles titles, though it has not been enough to stem the overall decline in viewership.

Clearly, without Roddick and the Williamses to at least make us care, tennis stands poised to fall behind soccer in popularity in the U.S.

Oh, sure, someone could always have a moment of greatness. Any of our upstarts could snatch a magic carpet and ride it to a Slam final, maybe even a title. But who's the next Roddick, who won his Grand Slam at age 21 or the next Williams, who captured their first Slam singles titles at 20 (Venus) and 18 (Serena)?

No one.


Let's face it, we stink at tennis. Really stink. Despite the USTA's best efforts (or worst, depending upon whom you're talking to) to discover and nurture the next generation of tennis stars, officials simply cannot manufacture greatness. Not when the sport has become more niche than even golf, which has Tiger Woods (don't laugh), Phil Mickelson, Anthony Kim and other Americans who are a threat to be in the final pairing on any given Sunday.

Just recently, tennis icon John McEnroe announced he was opening an academy in New York. He shuns the "total immersion" model used by most of the more noted academies and is modeling his program after the one in Port Washington, N.Y., that helped build his game. Gifted players play regularly, but attend school independently from the academy. In other words, they have a life. He also hopes to draw kids from areas of the city, such as Harlem and Brooklyn, that have not traditionally been sown for tennis stars.

"People feel, put the kids in the middle of nowhere, isolate them, so all they can do is live and breathe tennis," McEnroe told The New York Times. "Me, I went to Florida with Harry Hopman, at 15 or 16, for one day and said, 'I've got to get out of here.' Never would I have made it if I had to do that. It would have been a form of torture."

I know the argument that our best athletes are playing other sports -- even relatively minor but booming ones like lacrosse. But can't we find, say, 10 kids (five boys, five girls) who can play this game at the highest level?

Sadly, no. The only kids picking up tennis racquets these days are kids whose parents play, and that's just not enough to produce champions.

And without champions -- or even potential champions -- our interest in the sport will continue to wane, especially as even the popular top foreign players like Federer, Rafael Nadal and Sharapova begin to fade due to time or injury.

Too bad. With names such as Arthur Ashe, Billie Jean King, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Don Budge, Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, Chris Evert and others so much a part of America's past glory, it's sad that tennis no longer gives us a thrill. But it happens.

It's happening. Faster than we know.

P.S. I will stop watching tennis once the Williams sisters retire, unless of course another young black player steps up.

Miss Amor
May 28th, 2010, 11:15 AM
Does it have to be a young black player? why cant it be just any young player stepping up?

May 28th, 2010, 11:15 AM
I Read the title and couldnt be bother with the rest.
Americans have young tennis players coming up. if anything related to death,its Chinese Men.

May 28th, 2010, 11:15 AM
How does Roddick being married to a supermodel give him any extra advantage? :lol: This article.

May 28th, 2010, 11:18 AM
I didn't read the article, because they are usually dumb. But, hopefully, tennis fans watch tennis for more than just players from their home country, no? I know I do. These things come in waves anyway.

May 28th, 2010, 11:26 AM
Country forum.

May 28th, 2010, 11:33 AM
This article is awful! Clearly this "writer" is not a tennis fan or else he would not have written "someone named Sam Querrey." If he's been paying attention, he would know that Isner has top 10 potential and Querrey can be an overachiever like Blake was and also sneak into the top 10. As for the ladies, well, he may have somewhat of a point but I wouldn't count out Oudin to improve just yet and I also would not count out some of the younger jrs from developing into top talent. This guy is a hack trying to get attention by trotting out the old reliable "death of US tennnis" storyline. Sorry, not buying it!

May 28th, 2010, 11:45 AM
He needs to be patient,they are coming and yes it does'nt necessarily have to a young black American,he is clearly out of order there.I am a big fan of the Americans,especially the sport.I have a belief they will go far in Fifa World cup .

May 28th, 2010, 11:46 AM
Does it have to be a young black player? why cant it be just any young player stepping up?

my thoughts exactly

Vaidisova Ruled
May 28th, 2010, 11:50 AM
This article is BULLSHIT at least on the men's side.
Ryan Harrison (maybe he is hyped) but he is supposed to be a futur top 5 player (at least). And he's been doing really good lately. I think that he can have a really good career. And he also has a brother who is supposed to be good too.

On the women's side... Maybe there is a girl who is right now 12 or 13, and maybe in 6 years she'll be very good? How are you sure that it won't happen?

Vanity Bonfire
May 28th, 2010, 11:55 AM
Does it have to be a young black player? why cant it be just any young player stepping up?

This is JUSTICE4ALL, after all:lol:.

May 28th, 2010, 11:56 AM
Country forum.


A Magicman
May 28th, 2010, 11:57 AM
Too bad. With names such as Arthur Ashe, Billie Jean King, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Don Budge, Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, Chris Evert and others so much a part of America's past glory, it's sad that tennis no longer gives us a thrill. But it happens.

With Tommy Haas being mentioned (I didnt even know he changed his citizenship. Prick.) I miss the greatest besides Pete Sampras here - Miss Navratilova. Or is she "and others"?

May 28th, 2010, 11:46 PM
Great post. Not only has the USTA failed American tennis, so have American colleges who have doled out free rides to International players while stranding the local, homegrown talent. No scholarship means no collegiate career which means in the future guys like Isner won't be able to work their way onto the pro circuit. Is it just that there are too many other sports capable of generating more interest than tennis? The Big 3, even the NHL garner more screens at the local sports bar than tennis. I went into a sports bar/restaurant on a Sunday during the 2009 US Open. The place had at least 30 flat screens. I asked the hostess if one of them, ONE, could show the US Open semifinal between Fed and NJ. She just laughed and said, "I think everyone would rather watch the football game." I think next time I'll ask someone to change the channel to the PBS station so I can watch Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Tennis is utterly irrelevant to anyone who doesn't play. It's as though the casual sports fan equates tennis to cricket or croquet or something, a game snooty rich folks play but nothing more. My cable TV provider in the St. Louis area won't even consider adding the Tennis Channel to their menu of networks citing pitiful demand, what?! The national chain shoe stores, e.g. Foot Locker, Champs, Finish Line, at any enclosed shopping mall in America will never carry sport-specific tennis shoes, it's policy and they won't change it, willingly foregoing additional revenue. If the USTA estimates that participation is up why doesn't tennis get any respect? Even the French get more respect from the average American than tennis. The symptoms reinforce the problem and the vicious cycle persists.

May 29th, 2010, 12:01 AM
The whole article is true, in a few years time, thereīll will be no more American dominance, and I donīt give a shit about it! :haha: :haha:

Others will come, and tennis will survive, obviously... but the Williams sisters will be missed, as Davenport, Seles, Capriati...

May 29th, 2010, 12:06 AM
P.S. I will stop watching tennis once the Williams sisters retire, unless of course another young black player steps up.

What's the need for this racist remark?

May 29th, 2010, 12:09 AM
It's not like countries like Spain, Australia, Germany, Sweden and other countries who have had past GS champions have tons of amazing juniors and young talent. Tennis players come from more countries than ever, and that just means fewer top athletes for all of the countries. Also, if the USA wants a better set of players the national system needs to be revamped into something a little more centralized, something that helps fund the lower ranked, younger players more extensively.

May 29th, 2010, 12:12 AM
They'll always have the chance of good players nationalizing Americans, maybe Sharapova in the future :happy:

Serena y Monica
May 29th, 2010, 01:34 AM
Seriously? American tennis has been dying (according to sports rags) for at least 20-30 years...the sport will be fine.

May 29th, 2010, 02:31 AM
Seriously? American tennis has been dying (according to sports rags) for at least 20-30 years...the sport will be fine.

Overall, yes. But if you compare tennis in the US to where it was 25 years ago, not just at the pro level but at every other level, it is in bad shape. I personally think those USTA numbers are inflated to include everyone who touches a racket, not actual regular players who follow the sport. There does seem to be an uptick at the junior level, so that may help in the long run.

But tennis is in trouble in the US, there's no question about it.

There are a lot of issues, including some that have been cited by other posters, but a lot of it I think has to do with the fact we are fat and lazy in general. When I was in school you were the exception if you didn't play a sport at least through junior high school. With my kids, you're more of an exception if you do. FWIW, a lot of traditional American sports are also seeing declining participation, and the ones that used to be booming (soccer, for example) are leveling off. The problem is bigger than tennis, though it's particularly hard hit.

P.S. I will stop watching tennis, unless of course another young player with ADORABLE BANGS steps up.

May 29th, 2010, 02:43 AM
when it happens, tennis in the U.S. will become, well, soccer.:spit:

Can't say the future bright, but there was a noticeable lack of looking at who's coming up in the juniors.

May 29th, 2010, 02:48 AM
Actually, given that soccer is probably the only sport I love more than tennis, I thought that remark was kind of obnoxious. And ill-informed, since the World Cup will have about 10-15 times the viewership of any Slam in the US this summer. 2 million? That's an MLS=game of the week number.

May 29th, 2010, 03:39 AM
There are so many likeable and precious players out there. It doesn't matter to me if they are from the east,west,north or south. I like who I like and right now my fav's are "not" Americans. :bounce: :bounce:

May 29th, 2010, 05:08 AM
Apart from the remark about young black player, the article is spot on, where are the up and coming youngsters to keep the US flag flying?:confused:

May 29th, 2010, 05:09 AM
gay men play tennis
tennis is dead

you make

May 29th, 2010, 05:18 AM
While the lack of a marketable superstar in the US is a problem, the bigger issue is the declining interest in tennis in the US markets.

The primary problem is the overall massive decline in health and activity levels in all age groups. People who used to play tennis for leisure now play golf (or play videogames). There has been a massive shift in interest and dollars from tennis to golf over the past decades.

I'm not sure a new superstar is going to change that trend. Federer, while not American, is as marketable a guy as can be. Yet, he hasn't come even close to making an impact on tennis like Tiger has on golf.

May 29th, 2010, 06:08 AM
I know Oudin hasn't done well on the red dirt this season, but wasn't she doing pretty well up to about Fed Cup prior to the events in Europe?

May 29th, 2010, 11:33 AM
Mel hasnt been playing well on clay, but she'll be back for the US series :cheer:

May 29th, 2010, 12:12 PM
There's a good explanation in part for the decline of top-ranked US females in professonal tennis, and it isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Title IX, started in the 1980s, is a US law which required that females must receive athletic college scholarships equal to those of males. This was an incredible athletic boost for girls as they could pursue many sports besides tennis (such as soccer, basketball, softball, swimming, gymnastics, lacrosse, squash, rowing, track/field, volleyball, golf, field hockey et al) to get an all expense-paid college education.

However, it greatly dampened interest in pursuing a professional tennis career as US parents of athletically gifted girls preferred to seek free college educations for their daughters in these other sports rather than try for a highly unlikely lucrative professional career in tennis --- a choice which usually made it difficult to get an university degree as the ages 18 to 22 are critical in professional tennis development. It's the very rare individual like John Isner who graduated college and then had a professional career ranked under 25.

To my knowledge, other countries don't offer collegiate sports scholarships, partly because tuition is state-supported for qualified students and partly because there is not a tradition of extramural competitions with other universities. While tennis is one of the few athletic avenues for women in many countries to better their lot, that's not quite the case in the US.

May 29th, 2010, 12:40 PM
Apart from the remark about young black player, the article is spot on, where are the up and coming youngsters to keep the US flag flying?:confused:

I think that was the poster's opinion, not part of the article.