By Brad Sena
August 17, 2012
Andy Roddick showing off some snazzy kicks
When I was a youngster attending the ATP, the question of who would contend for the championship on Sunday was simple. Would it be Pete, Andre, Michael or Jim? But that was back in the 90s; times have changed. With the rise of a new big four, now the question is: When will another American rise to prominence, and who will that American be?
Sure Roddick, Blake, and Fish have had nice runs and even claimed a title or two in Cincy (Roddick singles in 2003 and 2006; Blake doubles in 2002) but, of late, these guys have failed to flex the big guns in the slams. The last American to win a grand slam was Andy Roddick in 2003. Of course I’m not the first person to wonder, what is plaguing American tennis?
It is a question every sports commentator covering tennis has asked and a question every American player must face. Clearly, globalization isn’t relegated to the marketplace, it’s having its way with our sport too.
Given the opportunity to ask this question to someone who really knows the game – and the players – I spoke with Craig Boynton, who coaches American John Isner. This week, because Isner was out with an injury, Boynton coached James Blake. Boynton described the situation as one that is not reflective of American tennis, but rather shows just how amazing these four champions are. “These guys are like four Tiger’s,” he said.
As in Tiger Woods? Mmmk.
The Tiger analogy might be outdated considering Woods’ recent struggles on the links, but Boynton does make a point. In any other era, Roddick, Isner, or Fish would have a pretty good shot at being a world champion. These, however, are not normal times.
Federer is an all around superstar in the sport with a record breaking 17 grand slams. Djokovic has been the most dominant player in the past 16 months. Nadal recently claimed his 7th Roland Garros and, when healthy, always poses a threat. And then there is Murray, the questionable fourth wheel. Although he has yet to win a slam, the Scot did defeat Fed in London to take home the gold medal. These guys make up the best in the game, dominating the second week at the slams time and time again. This makes it hard for anyone else to break through, but somebody from the US of A has to, no?
Boynton has taken Isner from being the 147 ranked player in the world to as high as number 10. So how about moving inside the coveted inner circle. “Health is the most important thing,” said Boynton. I might argue it’s what lies between the ears, but Boynton seemed resolute. The tangible aspects of the game – the kick serve, backhand slice, overhead, etc. – all of these guys have that in the bag. You have to in order to compete on the tour, but it’s the scheduling and recovery that really makes the difference.
This summer is a perfect example. Some Americans like Fish and Blake decided to forego the Olympics in favor of the U.S. hard court season. “The travel is just so tough,” said Fish. “That’s one of the reasons I didn’t go [to London].” Although he lost in the quarters to Federer, for Fish, it was still probably the right move to skip the Olympics. If winning majors is what counts, then Fish has put himself in the best position to compete at Flushing Meadows.
Will he come out victorious?
May the odds be ever in your favor… GO FISH!
*Photo credits: Ken Munsonto top ↑