American tennis isn’t what it used to be. It’s been a while since we’ve seen an American slow-kiss a newly shined grand slam trophy on one of the Big Four tennis stages. I miss seeing Sampras and Agassi dominate center court. The American power duo combined for 22 major titles and several classy hairdos/wigs. (Thanks, Andre.)
Tennis feels a bit more top heavy these days. We all know the names … Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, Murray. We also all know that not one of these four is American.
As we approach the French Open, we remember that just because the U.S. flag is partially red doesn’t mean that American players handle the red clay admirably. Since the Open era, Americans have won just four French Opens to Spain’s 15. Nine of those came from the southpaw that knocks the fuzz off the ball with topspin (ehem, Rafa).
Even outside of the dirtballer courts, Americans have won just three of 53 men’s singles Grand Slams since 2002. That compares to 22 of 40 Grand Slam wins from 1992 to 2001. In fact, Andy Roddick was the last American to win a major back in 2003. That was before the Red Sox broke Babe Ruth’s curse! It can only go up from here, right? With 6-foot-10-inch giants like John Isner, that can actually be taken literally.
Although the American men continue to face headwinds, the women are propelled by veterans like Serena Williams. Serena has won 19 singles majors and doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon. Up and comers on the women’s side like Madison Keys remind us that American talent on the WTA will seamlessly be replenished.
The truth is that Sampras is the reason why I even picked up a racket. The athleticism he brought to the game excited me. It was inspiring to see a tennis player with such graceful, skillful swagger reign over the field. The tongue-out overhead made me think, “Tennis isn’t such a stiff sport after all.” Licking the air while serving out the match definitely doesn’t qualify as stiff.
With the French Open less than a week away, we’re once again reminded that the American men’s tennis game isn’t what it used to be. Not that jean shorts and mullet wigs are two things I’d want to return.
I think we’re all waiting for a new Captain America of tennis to ring in the next hay day for the red, white, and blue. Maybe we were spoiled to have an era with Chang, Agassi and Sampras. I’ll even offer to buy a wig for Isner if it’ll make him win the French.