For a generation of American tennis fans brought up on the panache of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, the grit of Jim Courier, the class of Pete Sampras and the exuberance of Andre Agassi, these times seem like the nadir: not one American men's player in the top 10 for the first time in 37 years.
Andy Roddick, suffering in recent months from the mononucleosis virus, a mild case of glandular fever, has slipped to No 13 in the rankings issued yesterday, while there were only two other Americans in the top 25: John Isner, winner of the longest match in professional tennis history, at No 19 and Sam Querrey at No 21. Three more Americans figure in the top 100: Mardy Fish at No 36, Michael Russell at No 79 and Taylor Dent at No 83.
Given these rankings, tennis pundits in the United States have been lamenting the future of men's tennis in the country. Roddick was the last American to win a grand slam, at the US Open in 2003 when he briefly claimed the No 1 spot in world rankings. Since then, 27 grand slams have passed without an American triumph and this has been the second-longest drought in their history. And it is hard to see that barren run coming to an end any time soon.
Since defeating Juan Carlos Ferrero for his only grand slam title, Roddick has reached the finals at four others, but lost to Roger Federer on every occasion - three times at Wimbledon and once at the US Open. His career record against the Swiss stands at 2-19; against Rafael Nadal it is 3-5 and 3-6 against Andy Murray. Justin Gimelstob, a former player who has become a media pundit, however, insists things are not as bad as they seem, pointing to the number of singles titles won by Americans this season: nine, which is second only to the 16 wins by Spanish players.
Querrey has won four tournaments this season, which is second most after Nadal's five. "I prefer to see this sport as incredibly healthy internationally," Gimelstob said in a recent interview. "We still are healthy, just not when you compare to generations past. And I view that as an unrealistic bar. Andy is still playing at a top 10 level. "That said, I do not believe that American tennis will be able to maintain, or match, what it has done. The public better accept that it's not going to be like years past."
Paul Annacone, a former US tennis pro and current Federer coach, believes the good times will return for the US. "I had these same conversations when John and Jimmy retired," he said. "There was a bit of a lull. There weren't really any big, powerful superstars. Then you had Pete and Andre and Jim and Michael Chang. There's no reason to panic." email@example.com