Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Where have all the American champions disappeared to?

August 10, 2010

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When Jim Courier, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were engaged in a constant merry-go-round for the world number one spot throughout the 1990s, little did they know that a decade later American tennis players would have been left feeling dizzy with disbelief after they were completely wiped out from the Top 10.

Andy Roddick woke up on Monday to discover he had slid down two spots to number 11 and his little stumble meant that for the first time since the inception of rankings in 1973, the Stars and Stripes will not feature in the ATP’s top 10.

However, the fact that Roddick had managed to delay the U.S. from this debacle until this week is a remarkable feat in itself considering no American man has won a grand slam since the U.S. Open in 2003.

That was the year Roddick thought he had picked up the American baton from the likes of Sampras and company when he won his first major title and ended the year ranked number one. Little did he know that seven years later, he would still be searching for grand slam title number two or that American men would go through a barren spell lasting 27 majors and counting.

“What the lack of a U.S. top-10 male this week points out… is how lucky U.S. tennis fans have been over the years,” Courier told the Miami Herald. “I hope this will be a moment for American people to finally reflect on how strong and consistent Andy Roddick’s career has been so far since he has largely been the lone American man in the top 10 in recent years.

“I am sure plenty of people will get worked up about this, but not me. I can’t seem to recall an article that mentioned how remarkable the ongoing U.S. top-10 presence was in the past few years but I am also not surprised that the lack of a top-10 player will now get ink. The game is deep with global talent but the U.S. will have a top-10 presence again, probably within a few weeks.”

This winless grand slam streak is just three short of the overall American record when they went 30 straight slams without a title between the 1955 U.S. Open and Wimbledon in 1963.

Since Roddick is currently going through a crisis of confidence and those following him in the standings – John Isner (19), Sam Querrey (21), Mardy Fish (34) Taylor Dent (81) and Michael Russell (82) – do not have enviable records in the slams, there seems to be no end in sight for the lean spell.

For more than a decade, the all-American smile was a trademark on finals’ day at the grand slams with Agassi, Sampras, Courier and Michael Chang winning one major title after another.

From 1989 to 2003, the quartet chalked up 27 major titles between them and ensured that the U.S. won at least one slam a season.

During the 1990s, American men also grabbed the year-end top spot eight times with Sampras spending a record 286 weeks at the summit.

If only Roddick had some compatriots to play tug-of-war with.

PHOTO: Andy Roddick of the U.S. slips as he stretches to return the ball to France’s Michael Llodra at the 2010 Wimbledon tennis championships in London, June 23, 2010. REUTERS/Toby Melville

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