Yanked from tennis’ elite

The French Open just began but, not to ruin anything, there’s almost no chance that an American man is going to win. Let’s be honest: I used the word “almost” out of a sense of patriotism. In truth, there’s no chance at all.

That will make it 16 years since an American man won in Paris. It will also get us one step closer to a dozen years since an American man won any grand slam event.

Here’s something: For 40 years after the Open era of tennis began, there was always an American man in the year-end Top 10. Usually there were three or four.

But there was always at least one. More often than not, the best player in the world was an American — McEnroe, Connors, Courier, Sampras, Agassi, Roddick. Tennis was an American thing.

Well, each of the last three years there have been zero American men in the Top 10. And there’s no one in the Top 10 now.

John Isner and his giant serve is 16th in the world. He’s the only American in the Top 25.  He’s also 30 years old and has yet to reach his first grand slam semifinal.

There are countless theories about how it all fell apart for American men’s tennis, many having to do with the developmental programs or the lack of clay courts for young players to play on.

You also have to wonder if U.S. tennis is just in a bad cycle. In golf, we are now seeing a flurry of talented young Americans who grew up being inspired by Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

But it has been a dozen years since the top men’s player in the world was American. Meanwhile young Spanish players, inspired by Rafael Nadal, are all over the Top 50.

There are those around American tennis who say that a young wave of players in their teens are coming. Maybe. In the meantime, the French Open this year will feature more amazing players than ever before … and, in America, subtitles.

–Joe Posnanski

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