US tennis hits 100-year low
NOT even 52 aces could save John Isner from losing to Feliciano Lopez at Wimbledon, leaving no American players in the last 16 for the first time since 1911.
Isner was beaten by Spain's Lopez 6-7 (8-10), 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-3), 7-5 yesterday at the All England Club in south-west London.
The ace tally for Isner, who played the longest match in tennis history at Wimbledon four years ago, was the third-highest in tournament history and the most in a four-set match.
"It's obviously disappointing," former world No. 4 and ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert, an American, said in an interview at Wimbledon.
In 1911, no American women competed at Wimbledon, while only three American men took part.
Isner, 29, told reporters afterwards that he didn't know that American tennis had hit such a low at the All England Club. "Don't really care, either," he said.
Madison Keys, the last American woman left in the third round after five-time champion Serena Williams was upset by France's Alize Cornet three days ago, withdrew yesterday morning ahead of the resumption of her third-round match against Yaroslava Shvedova. The Kazakhstan player had been leading 7-6 (7-5), 6-6 when the match was stopped due to darkness. The 19-year-old Keys had won a grasscourt event in Eastbourne, England, shortly before Wimbledon.
This year, 13 American men and 10 women entered the main singles draws at Wimbledon.
Although there are 11 American men in the top 100 on the men's ATP World Tour, the 11th-ranked Isner is the only player in the top 65.
The most recent American man to win a major singles title was Andy Roddick at the 2003 US Open. He retired in 2012.
The last American man to clinch the Wimbledon singles title was Pete Sampras, who won his seventh championship in 2000.
American women have been outperforming the men. Ten are ranked in the top 100 - including four in the top 35 - on the WTA tour, with 17-time Grand Slam singles champion Williams at No. 1.
"The women are in a much better place," ESPN broadcaster and former world No. 3 Pam Shriver, also from the United States, said in an interview yesterday.
"Are we getting the best athletes in our country to go for tennis? I think we are on the women's side more than on the men's side."
She added: "Everybody is working hard, trying hard. But when you compare American men tennis players athletically to Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, they don't add up as athletes. It's really hard. In order to get to the top of men's tennis, you need to be superior athletically in every category, and also have a mind that is incredibly strong. If you don't have that combination, then it's going to be tough."
US tennis is no longer dominating the world because the sport "has become incredibly global", said Gilbert, a Wimbledon quarter-finalist in 1990.
"If you'd have told me 25 years ago that a guy like Roger Federer is coming from Switzerland, these things just didn't happen. But they come from everywhere now."
But there is a glimmer of hope.
Both Shriver and Gilbert pointed to 16-year-old Francis Tiafoe from College Park, Maryland, the son of immigrants from the West African nation of Sierra Leone who learnt to play tennis at the club where his father worked as a maintenance man.
A former top-ranked junior, Tiafoe is seeded seventh in the boys' singles at Wimbledon, where his first-round match was halted because of rain yesterday.