Twenty years ago Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Michael Chang and Todd Martin were in the world’s top ten players.Currently there are none in the top 20.
Long gone are the days when America ruled the tennis world. The likes of McEnroe, Connors, and Ashe are distant heroes of a time when the U.S. dominated the game.
The mantle was then taken up by Courier, Agassi and Sampras in the 1990s.
Why is it that since the present rankings system was introduced in 1973, there is no American male in the top ten?
Why is a sport that is growing world-wide struggling to survive in the States?
First of all tennis is now a truly global sport and players from what had been the peripheries of the world political economy began to compete and win.
Argentina, Serbia, Croatia, Spain, the Ukraine and Belarus are producing world class stars.
American tennis today can be compared to English soccer before and just after the war when England remained unbeaten at home until the ‘Mighty Magyars’ lead by Ferenc Puskas gave the founders of the game a 6-3 thrashing at Wembley, the home of football.
Other nations were catching up and overtaking England as the dominant country in world football.
The same has happened to American tennis today.
Novak Djokovic (Serbia), Rafael Nadal (Spain) and Roger Federer (Switzerland) have dominated world tennis and most Grand Slams over the last 10 years.
So why can’t the US compete at this level?
There was a time when young talent sprung from the ranks of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCCA) which regulates athletes in around 1300 college and university institutions.
This was a breeding ground for the likes of John McEnroe (Stanford), Jimmy Connors (UCLA) and Arthur Ashe (UCLA).
For some reason there is a dearth of Americans playing tennis nowadays. Perhaps they are attracted to different sports? Perhaps they see a future in a career where success can be guaranteed more easily? Perhaps there is no American tennis male role model to follow?
John McEnroe believes that young athletes may be choosing more lucrative sports over tennis.
Whatever the reason it is sad to see such a decline in a sport that was once dominated by the States.
Right now US tennis needs another Jimmy Connors or another Pete Sampras.
It needs a dynamic male player who wins titles.