Can an American man break through to win a Grand Slam title?

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Brad Gilbert knows it’s been 20 years Andy Roddick Won the US Open. It’s almost impossible to forget, especially lately, since reminders are everywhere But it still seems surreal to him that it’s been so many years since he coached Roddick to his only major win.

Gilbert, a former player-coach and ESPN analyst, can still vividly recall almost every detail of Roddick’s incredible run in New York and every match of their fairytale summer leading up to the year’s final Grand Slam.

The title was in Indianapolis in July. Back-to-back wins in Montreal and Cincinnati, including an epic final showdown with Roddick’s longtime friend mardi fish. rain delay A late night match on Roddick’s 21st birthday. A dramatic come-from-behind win David Nalbandian US Open semifinals. Then a 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3 win Juan Carlos Ferrero Finally.

For Gilbert and many others at the time, it seemed inevitable that Roddick would lift a few more major trophies in his career, and he promised to become the next great American star, following in the footsteps of legendary names like Pete Sampras. and Andre Agassi.

Certainly no one predicted at the time that in 2023, Roddick would be the last American to win a major. Entering this year’s US Open, four American women (Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens And Sofia Kenin) has won major titles since, no American man has accomplished the feat.

“If someone had told me at the time, I would have said, ‘It’s done,'” Gilbert, who previously coached Agassi, said earlier this month. “Up until that point, we had always expected American men to win because we always had.”

By all measures, Roddick has had an incredible career. He reached world number one. 1 later that year, a milestone she held for 13 weeks, and won 32 singles titles before retiring in 2012. And while she reached four more Grand Slam finals, including three at Wimbledon, she was unable to repeat what she did at the US Open. . He lost all four Roger Federer.

Federer and his Big Three opponents Rafael Nadal And Novak Djokovic Mainly responsible for the winless streak. Since Federer won his first Slam title at Wimbledon in 2003, the trio has won 65 of the 80 major titles.

As a result, the United States is certainly not the only country with a similar streak of rich tennis history. The drought among men’s players in Australia and France is even earlier. But even with an obvious explanation for much of the country’s woes — it’s tough to compete against arguably the three greatest players of all time — it still doesn’t hurt the sting any less, nor the American determination to win majors.

“I think it’s natural for tennis fans and the tennis community to look back to 2003 and that’s something we’re trying to get back to in terms of men winning a Slam,” said USTA General Manager Martin Blackman. Player development, recently Dr. “It’s a healthy and fair conversation, but it’s not something we talk about internally in terms of player development, because we try to hold ourselves accountable to being process focused. But that’s always the ultimate goal.

“The ultimate goal is always to win the Slam.”

In 2009 — coincidentally the last time an American man (Roddick) played in a major final — the USTA created its National Pathway program as a way to identify, nurture and retain top young talent. A network of camps at divisional, regional and national levels were developed for talented players from 11-and-over. According to Blackman, all of the current men and women ranked in the top 100 have participated in the program 26 years and younger.

In recent years, some American men have reached Grand Slam semifinals: Sam Querrey (Wimbledon in 2017), John Isner (Wimbledon in 2018), Francis Tiafoe (US Open in 2022) and Tommy Paul (Australian Open in 2023). And away from the Grand Slams, things are looking more promising of late. For the first time since Roddick retired a decade ago, two American men — Taylor Fritz and Tiafoe — ranked in the top 10. Both have won two ATP titles this season. Paul, who is ranked no. 14, he has played in two finals this year apart from his breakthrough result in Melbourne. Dr. in the ranking published in August. 21, there were eight Americans ranked in the ATP’s top 50 and 11 in the top 100.

Because of the USTA’s Pathway Program, young Americans playing on tour have known and competed against each other since their preteens or early teens. That camaraderie and that friendly competition pushed everyone to be better.

“We all grew up together, so whenever someone does something or wins something we’re really happy for each other,” Tiafoe, 25, told ESPN earlier this summer. No jealousy but at the same time, when I see Taylor or Tommy do something, I think, ‘F— that, if they can do it, why can’t I do it?’ So when I played Rafa in the fourth round [2022] The US Open, I thought, ‘Well Taylor beat him at Indian Wells [in 2022]If he can, why can’t I?’

 

Tiafoe did just that, defeating Nadal in four sets to reach the quarterfinals. He eventually lost Carlos AlcarazThe eventual champion, in a hotly contested semi-final, but he vowed to the fans at the Arthur Ashe Stadium that he would come back and win the tournament.

For many years it was Isner, now 38 and ranked no. 158, who was the only American in the top 10 and the nation’s most legitimate hope for the title. On Wednesday, Isner announced that the US Open would be his final tournament before retiring. In many ways, he is seen as the bridge connecting Roddick’s generation to the present.

“After Andy, we’re fortunate to have John have these breakthrough moments and consistently reach the top ten,” Blackman said. “He’s been a great example of professionalism and set the bar high for these guys before this new cycle and starting to pump these new players.”

Given a wild card to play in his 17th main draw at the tournament, Isner is not considered a contender, but several of his younger peers are.

And it’s not just the trio of Tiafoe, 25-year-old Fritz and 26-year-old Paul, although they lead the pack entering the fortnight. Chris Eubanks27, coming off his first ATP title in Mallorca and his first major quarter-final at Wimbledon, when he was shocked Cameron Norrie And Stephanos Tsitsipas On the way to the last eight. Ben Shelton20, the 2022 NCAA singles champion, reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open earlier this season in her first full year on tour. Mackenzie McDonald, another former NCAA champion, is coming off a strong showing at the Canadian Open this month And Sebastian Korda, the 23-year-old son of former major champion Petar Korda, reached the quarters of the Australian Open. And then there are the likes of up and comers Michael Mmoh, JJ Wolf, Marcos Giron And Brandon Nakashima. The list goes on.

inside A recent interview with GQ Commemorating the 20th anniversary of his achievement, Roddick said he was impressed by the current crop of American talent and their competitive spirit with each other.

“There’s a healthy jealousy among players,” Roddick told the magazine. “They’re not all patting each other on the back. They want to be better than the other guy. They actually talk about winning Slams.”

But he did not answer when asked which of them had the best chance of ending the winless streak.

“I don’t know,” Roddick said. “It’s not a cop out. I’d probably lie to you if I had a strong feeling, ’cause I don’t want a guy to get the spotlight and have to deal with it. But I don’t really know that’s a head and shoulders above.”

Gilbert echoed that sentiment. Worked with Andy Murray Before he snapped the British men’s major winless streak in 2012, he knows all too well how overwhelming the pressure and expectations of a nation can be on a player.

Everyone will point out that no one has won since Fred Perry [in 1936] And then I remember telling Andy and he was like, ‘Not in my eyes,'” Gilbert said. It’s actually a bigger problem than that.”

Gilbert is back at the US Open, working with another promising young American Coco Gough, which is having a magical summer with two titles. Roddick wasn’t even born when he won in Queens, but he and his American peers are better known for how long it’s been for men. Speaking to reporters Friday before the U.S. Open, Fritz joked that he’s been asked about the streak during every press conference he’s held.

“That’s what we’re all used to hearing,” he said.

But Tiafoe seemed enthusiastic about the challenge for him and his teammates, and one of them would end the drought.

“I think American tennis is in a great place,” Tiafoe said Friday. “Tommy Paul is playing great tennis. Fritz, myself. You’ve got Chris, Ben, Korda. … I think it’s just a matter of time, whether it happens here, whether it happens in time. Obviously, what Andy did in ’03 was incredible. My It seems like we hear it more than he probably heard it, what he did in ’03

“Yes, I hope one of us will be able to do it. I hope when we do, it’s here in the open.”

 

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