Thursday, June 27, 2013

Courier on American Tennis Low Point: "Get Used to It"

(June 27, 2013)--Novak Djokovic's straight set win over Bobby Reynolds on the last match of day 4 was more than just a ho-hum victory for the World No. 1 and consensus Wimbledon favorite. It also marked a low point for American tennis, as Reynold's loss meant that for the first time in over a hundred years, no American males will reach the third round at Wimbledon. While it doesn't come as a surprise--American men have been languishing for the better part of a decade now--it doesn't ease the sting for die-hard American tennis enthusiasts and it certainly doesn't bode well for the sport's popularity stateside.

"It's not a happy day," said Jim Courier, a four-time Grand Slam champion who is commentating for Tennis Channel at Wimbledon. "I can give you all the excuses. It doesn't matter. The fact remains we're all disappointed if you care about American tennis that there's not an American male in there."

Making matters worse, the current crop of young Americans--while promising in some areas--appears to be a long way from making a dent on tour. "The game has gone international--we've all heard the stories of why it's tougher out there," said Courier. "What today points out more than anything is how lucky we've been and we're not entitled as a nation to have players in the third round, we have to earn it like everybody else."

American women currently have three players in the third round and one still alive in the third round. Several American women have generated buzz this year, but many feel that the men are experiencing a dearth of talent because their are too many other lucrative options for American men in sports. Whatever the reason, Courier thinks that parents--not the USTA--can be the agent of change in the equation. "Parents are the reason that people play tennis," said Courier. "There is no great answer out there as to why Serena Williams is a great champion other than Richard Williams saw a woman with a checque in her hand and said 'My daughters are going to do that.' "

With the U.S. hardcourt season around the corner, the odds are likely that the U.S. men's tennis narrative could get worse before it gets better. At least one American has been in the top 20 ever since the ATP started maintaining its rankings system in 1973. That could change with Sam Querrey (19) and John Isner (21) on the fringe.

"Get used to it," Courier warned.

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