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Men's American Tennis

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Men’s American Tennis Is In A Huge Slump, But Why?

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The 2021 Men’s Wimbledon Final is set for this Sunday, and it’s not surprising to see that neither of the competitors are of American nationality. In fact, the last American man to play in the Wimbledon final was Andy Roddick in 2005. To make the case worse, out of the top-30 men ranked by the ATP, zero represent the United States. What is the Men’s American Tennis system doing wrong to be in such a slump? And, does the future generation have what it takes to bring the red, white, and blue into contention?

Has American Men’s Tennis Always Been Under Represented On The Circuit?

The short answer is no. Many of the first names that come to mind when discussing tennis are John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, and Jimmy Connors, who are all American. However, the most recent of these players to retire was Agassi, and he put his racket down in 2006. All were in the top 3 of the circuit for most of their careers, boasting at least 7 grand slam wins. In fact, American tennis had the largest representation on the professional circuit for most years prior to the 2000s.

America Has The Resources To Produce Top Players Internationally.

America is an athlete producing powerhouse, and the numerous facilities, gyms, and training centers scattered across areas are to thank. If you want to improve your arm power, hit the gym. Want to work on that first serve? Pick from several tennis coaches to work with you. Opportunities and aids are available, but America as a country can’t seem to use the resources as an advantage.

So What Is America Doing Wrong?

For one, an easy answer is that tennis is deteriorating as a part of American culture. Americans simply aren’t following and supporting tennis. TV ratings for the sport are nowhere near where they were in the 90s and beyond. Even worse, American students aren’t playing enough tennis at American universities. Around half of all NCAA tennis rosters comprise of foreigners.

Craig O’Shannessy’s Perspective

When analysts answer this question, they point to the lack of strategy being taught in American coaching rather than the lack of popularity among Americans. In specific, Craig O’Shannessy, an expert mentor, believes that coaches around the country focus mainly on having clients hit the ball over and over. He explains, via ESPN’s Bill Connelly, “The traditional USTA practice session [is] where we get out there and we hit 100 balls crosscourt to start, then we do our patterns and we throw in some serves at the end.” This style of coaching isn’t necessarily enough to produce tennis giants, in O’Shannessy’s mind. Rather, he believes that strategy should be a driving point in coaching.

Brad Gilbert’s Perspective

Brad Gilbert, a former player and tennis analyst, took a different stance in the discussion. He believes that American gameplay and style are growing to be too one-dimensional. For example, an emphasis on serves and forehand power is taking the lead over movement and defense when it comes to the style of play. Being a tennis player myself, I would agree that movement and agility are not a primary focus of practice in the States. Looking at current top players in the circuit, it’s obvious that movement is winning titles. Specifically, Novak Djokovic, who is set to play in the 2021 Wimbledon final, maximizes his movement and agility to drain his opponent throughout a match. It really is what defines his game and his greatness.

Is There Success In The Future For American Men’s Tennis?

Although American men have not had much success in the past 20 or so years, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the future is brighter. There are 7 American men in the top 60 rankings, and 4 of them are 23 or younger in age. Given the fact that the peak age for tennis players is not until around 28, these men have a fair amount of time to come up in the rankings and hopefully spark interest in more American youth.

Speaking of interest, this is another positive point in terms of the future of American tennis. Children aged 6 to 13 brought up participation rates of the sport in America by nearly 13 percent. If the current generation doesn’t bring home some titles, at least we have the younger children to depend on.

American Women Don’t Face The Same Problem In Terms Of Success

Possibly, the men have to take tips from the American women? The women’s side of the circuit is nothing short of exciting. 7 women in the top 30 represent America, and several are young enough to take over in the near future. Coco Gauff, Sofia Kenin, and Jennifer Brady are all under 27 and have already seen great success on the tour.

Growing participation rates and young American professionals on the tour do provide hope for the United States men’s tennis. But we can’t deny the fact that we need to change something in order to produce higher-caliber tennis professionals. As of now, all we can do is wait, but most signs do point to success in the future for American tennis.

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