In a historic flop for US men’s tennis, no player reached the fourth round of the US Open, or any Grand Slam this year, with the loss of last man standing Tim Smyczek on Sunday at Flushing Meadows.
Spain’s Marcel Granollers beat the 109th-ranked US wild card 6-4, 4-6, 0-6, 6-3, 7-5 after three hours and 24 minutes to reach the last 16 and complete a humiliating and unprecedented Open-era Grand Slam wipeout for American men.
It came on the heels of no US man reaching the third round at Wimbledon for the first time since 1912 and last month, which produced the first week in rankings history without a top-20 US player.
While US boys once dreamed of being the next Jimmy Connors or Andre Agassi, US tennis has been reduced to trying to pilfer the next potential Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods from rival sports to try and reverse the fall from grace.
“We’ve been trying to encourage some of the kids that were going to play basketball or American football to get out on a tennis court,” said former world No. 1 and seven-time Grand Slam singles winner John McEnroe. “We need truly great athletes, need to try to nab some of the kids playing some other sports.”
With a growing challenge from Asia and Eastern Europe, there is a far tougher global landscape than decades past for who those who accept the task of trying to win the first US men’s Grand Slam singles title since Andy Roddick captured the 2003 US Open.
US 13th seed John Isner said after his third-round loss that he was off to watch a national telecast of his beloved collegiate American football squad.
While major US network television coverage beyond the Grand Slams and pre-US Open events is limited, some form of American football is shown all year long.
Toss in such popular sports as basketball, baseball and US stock car racing, and add the growth of soccer and golf, and US tennis is fighting for talent without Grand Slam-champion role models to offer.