Americans no longer fixtures in world’s top 10

Andy Roddick put a positive slant on it on Monday but the lack of an American man or woman in the top 10 of the world rankings underlined just how much the balance of power in tennis has shifted across the Atlantic.
     For the first time since rankings began the nation that produced the likes of John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King and the Williams sisters, to name but a few, the ATP and WTA lists contained not one player in the top 10 with US in brackets after his or her name.
     Mardy Fish, a player who has never reached a grand slam semi-final, is the top American male at number 11 while Serena Williams, the 13-times grand slam winner, is the highest female at 17th despite not having played for nearly a year.
     Take out Serena and number 19 Venus, the other half of the most successful tennis family ever, and the next highest player in the rankings is Bethanie Mattek-Sands at number 38.
     “It’s not for lack of looking hard and it’s not for lack of talent,” Mattek-Sands told reporters last week in Madrid where she was one of only two American women in the main draw.
     “It’s just tough right now. I think the biggest reason is just that a lot of juniors get injured before they even have a chance to step on tour.  I think there is a lot of pressure in the US.”
     Former world number one Roddick, who has admirably carried the baton for his nation since the retirements of Jim Courier, Sampras and Agassi, believes America’s new generation inevitably suffer by comparison to the halcyon days.
     “There is no bigger crisis in American tennis than there is in Italian,” Roddick shot back in his post-match news conference at the Rome Masters on Monday after bowing out in the first round to Frenchman Gilles Simon.
     “There has been a lot of harping on about the state of American tennis but we are perhaps the victims of our own success. Put us up against most countries we are still ahead.”
     However, Roddick clearly feels someone else needs to step up, particularly at the grand slams which have not had an American male champion since he won the US Open in 2003.
     “I feel I’ve handled my part for more than a decade,” added the 28-year-old. “I’ve done my job for a long time.”
     With no obvious American contenders emerging in the men’s or women’s game, it is Europe-based players who dominate the highest rungs on the tennis ladder.
     Eight of the top 10 women are from Europe with Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki leading the way and the likes of Czech Petra Kvitova and Belarussian Victoria Azarenka expected to be challenging for grand slam titles in the absence of the ageing and injured Williams sisters.
     The European bias is even more extreme in the men’s game where the entire top-10 are from the continent.
     Although with Swiss Roger Federer, Spain’s Rafa Nadal and now Serbia’s Novak Djokovic so dominant in the past eight years there has been precious little opportunity for any other player, wherever they were born, to prosper.
     There have been glimmers of hope in recent years.
     Melanie Oudin shot to prominence at the 2009 US Open while Donald Young had been touted as a future star when he turned professional in 2004.
     Both have seen their careers stall and Mattek Sands believes a new mentality is required.
     “In other countries there is just a little bit more of that grit to get out of where they’re coming from. Take some of the Russians. They’re trying to get out of there, make some money, go somewhere better,” she said.
     “In the US we have it pretty good. It’ll take some people getting out of their comfort zone, pushing themselves and having it inside themselves.” – Reuters

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