John McEnroe, Arthur Ashe, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Andy Roddick - that's a mighty impressive tennis resume for the United States. Indeed America has enjoyed the view from the top of men's tennis for some decades now. Perhaps this extensive list of greats is the reason why a current top-tenner, two current top-twentiers and a few promising young things will not suffice for a nation who's used to excelling.
There are plenty talented male American players at the moment but no champion of champions; and the land of the free is feeling that sting. The USTA has invested $1.3million into a youth programme, "10 and Under Tennis" to encourage more American youngsters to take up the sport, with legendary tennis couple Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf keenly lending a hand. The equally legendary John McEnroe describes the comparative lack of success as "frustrating" and cited that fact as fuel for the launching of his John McEnroe Tennis Academy with which he aims to "get the buzz back in tennis".
Perhaps that's why the U.S's recent defeat to Spain at their Davis Cup quarterfinal was that much more painful. Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish unfortunately failed to fly the flag despite all the promise they showed going in. Furthermore the event just highlighted the fact that the last of their greats - Roddick, is perhaps closer to the finish line than they'd like. What was highlighted more though, is the current Spanish/European dominance. And that's a part of the problem - Europe has stepped up over the years. In fact there are only three non-European tennis players in the top 20 - Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick and Juan Martin del Potro.
But despite all this I'd like to reassure the U.S. (doubtful that it would be of any help,) that there's no need to panic. They're just having some down-time; and to be able to say that with Fish, Roddick and Isner in the mix is surely a privileged position for them to be in. Furthermore, they've got the explosive Ryan Harrison on which to pin future hopes. In the meantime, it’s Europe's turn to shine.