When big serving John Isner lost in his 3rd round match to Feliciano Lopez, we were faced with a harsh reality. No American men would be in the fourth round. Now, nobody was expecting an American to win the Aussie Open, but for all of them to drop like flies throughout the first three rounds? Frightening things were happening. Mardy Fish, the only American in the top 10 right now, flopped in straight sets to Alejandro Falla. Ryan Harrison actually impressed, perhaps the only bright spot right now besides Isner, but fell to #4 Andy Murray in 4 sets in the first round. Sam Querrey was a loser in four sets to Bernard Tomic. Andy Roddick, still considered by many as the best American men’s player, retired to Aussie fan favorite Lleyton Hewitt down two sets to one and went out with a whimper. For the men, that left it to Isner. He could only go so far, and you can’t blame him; He was in two straight 5-set matches, so he must have been tired. The women’s end of the draw isn’t any better at all. The really scary part? Only Serena Williams is left. And what about when she’s gone? The possibility (or should I say “When that happens”) of that is really bad. Players are moving away from American tennis. This just might be because of his own wishes, but last year Alex Bogomolov Jr. decided to switch allegiances from the United States, his adopted home, to Russia, not many cared that much on either side. But I was starting to wonder whether American tennis had completely lost its foothold as the premier tennis nation. There’s optimism, I guess. But not much. Hey, Mike and Bob Bryan are still the number one doubles team! But with all due respect to doubles, the only thing almost everyone cares about is doubles. The singles players play doubles occasionally for extra practice or just for fun. The doubles players play doubles because they don’t have some element of tennis that singles requires.
While Mardy Fish was a huge success story and became a top ten player last year, he’s not enough. Besides him, Ryan Harrison and Isner are the only people you can rely on to not embarrass the United States…sometimes. Fish disgraced himself and his country the other day to a Colombian who’s famous for almost beating Federer in the first round. But he couldn’t close the deal. Fish just let him win the first two sets, than fell back in the third and looked completely lost. I don’t have much confidence in Serena winning the Australian Open either. She’s too inconsistent now and there’s too many dangerous opponents in my opinion.
The USTA has got to be quite embarrassed right now. So should any American tennis fan or player. I realize that the Agassi-Sampras domination might be over and John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors will never come back, but the number one priority right now should be further developing a player, one that the USTA thinks has the most potential. Who do I think that should be? Either Isner or Harrison.
Let’s stick with Isner for now. His service is arguably the best in the game, so not much fixing there. His forehand’s good, but he can make some mistakes. His backhand’s kinda weak, in my opinion. What he needs to work on is controlling his backhand, which is erratic, and making it more accurate. His court coverage skills are very impressive for a man of his size, and his volleying is decent. What he needs to work on most is his touch. His amazing serve wins him matches just like that, and his all-around game works well against his first couple opponents in Grand Slams. But when it comes to a top 10 player, I’m not sure Isner can beat them. Well, maybe on a good day, but not consistently. Touch is something he needs to have. Instead of smashing groundstrokes down the line, maybe he acquires a drop shot to use once in a while as a change of pace. Honestly, there’s hardly ever a time where I see him slice. He might be the flattest hitting player in tennis. Seriously.
The USTA has to show that they’re still committed to building a winner. No American men past the third round is beyond pathetic, but the bottom line is, something needs to be done. And fast, too.
As for Ryan Harrison? Well, he’s a story for another day.