The United States was the dominant force on the world tennis scene for the first 30 years of the Open Era, but in the last decade, has experienced limited international success. Now, with the current generation of U.S. champions all over 30, American tennis is at a crossroads and the future is uncertain at best. Here is a brief look of the U.S. tennis scene at the 2012 U.S. Open …
The golden girls
Serena Williams did a break dance on center court at The All England Club to celebrate a beat down on the rest of the world to win Olympic Gold. With this win, Serena joins Stefanie Graf as only the second woman to win all four Grand Slams and Olympic Women’s Singles Gold. Serena has her mojo back and she is a force of nature. She is the clear favorite at this year's U.S. Open after a magical summer run in London that included a Wimbledon title.
Venus Williams has played the WTA Tour for over half her life and her body is showing signs of wear and tear. Venus can be proud of her seven Grand Slam Singles Titles and when she partners with sister Serena, she is still a favorite to capture the doubles crown.
The good old boys
Twins Mike & Bob Bryan are the most successful doubles team in men's tennis history and are still going strong at a combined age of 68. They now have an Olympic Gold Medal to add to their impressive resume.
Mardy Fish has jumped tremendously in the ATP World Rankings over the past two years. Even if he can stay away from the devastating effects of glutton that had previously limited his court renaissance, he is over 30 years of age and is facing serious health concerns.
Andy Roddick has been one of the most consistent performers on the men's tour in the last 10 years and is the last American to win a Grand Slam in 2003 at the U.S. Open. While Roddick continues to grind on the tour, it looks as though the tour has been a grind on him.
The current crop
John Isner is the highest ranked American man, hovering at around number 10 in the world rankings. He has the size and power to dominate, but questions remain concerning his mobility and all-around game. I see his near term chances of winning a Slam as a long shot. Local favorite, 20-year-old Christina McHale from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., has broken into the top 30 in the WTA rankings. Christina has heart, tenacity, youth and an all-around game. Expect her to battle for a top 10 world ranking if she can add a weapon to her game.
Sam Querrey from San Francisco has a huge game and is ranked just inside the top 40 where he is likely to remain for a while.
Melanie Oudin thrilled U.S. Open crowds in 2009 by beating Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova to become the youngest Grand Slam quarterfinalist since Serena Williams in 1999. Unfortunately, her career has stalled since and she is currently ranked outside the top 100.
Ryan Harrison is ranked 60th in the world at the tender age of 20. After his first round loss to Santiago Giraldo of Columbia in the 2012 Olympics, The New York Times wrote, "Though the match was considered winnable for Harrison, the loss itself will be less remembered than Harrison's petulant behavior as the match slipped away." Still many expect great things from Harrison as he matures.
Coco Vandeweghe is ranked 73rd on the WTA Tour and is the daughter of former New York Knick Kiki Vandeweghe. She has the size, power and potential to be a top 20 player in the world.
Donald Young was once the top-ranked junior in the world, but has not lived up to his great potential. Young is currently ranked outside the top 50, having reached a career high of 38th. He has all the talent in the world, and at 23-years-old ,he is young enough to reshape his game.
Irina Falconi, currently ranked 104th and grew up playing on The City Parks Foundation Courts at the National Tennis Center, and Julia Cohen, ranked 97th, are top young Americans who followed the unusual path of playing college tennis at Georgia Tech and The University of Miami (Florida). Bravo to these players.
Last and not least by a long shot are Sloane Stephens and Taylor Townsend.
Sloane is currently ranked 50th in the world, and at the age of 19, has the speed and power to be perhaps the most promising young American player in many years. Taylor Townsend is just 16 and the Australian Open Junior Champion. She could just be the top American of the future.
The local crew
Scott Lipsky who grew up in Merrick, N.Y. and played for Stanford University, is a doubles specialist ranked 34th in the world. In 2011, Scott teamed with Casey Dellacqua of Australia to win the French Open Mixed-Doubles title. Not too bad an accomplishment for a local kid and Stanford Graduate.
Julia Elbaba of Oyster Bay, N.Y., Jamie Loeb of Ossining, N.Y. and Noah Rubin of Rockville Centre, N.Y. are local juniors who will be competing in this year's Junior U.S. Open. All three of these rising stars have experienced great success against the best young players in the world in junior Grand Slams. Expect to be seeing their names in the main draws of women's and men's Grand Slams soon.
What's the problem?
In 2011, Daniel Riley of GQ interviewed Andre Agassi, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras for his article "Why Does America Suck at Tennis?" All three champions agreed that success runs in a cycle and we are clearly on a downturn.
Agassi advocates that the USTA 10 & Under tennis initiative will be a great boost to "get the racquet in more kids hands." He is optimistic that "We'll make the adjustment and have our time in the sun again."
McEnroe explained that the evolution of equipment and the development of guys who are "Getting bigger, stronger and more athletic" has made the game "more of a track meet instead of a tennis match." McEnroe thinks that convincing young American athletes to jump into tennis is "one of the big factors."
Sampras believes that the recent success of countries like Spain is "Just testament to how international the game is now that we're not dominating anymore." I think it's also a testament to the miracles of modern science.
Success in tennis is similar to achievement in almost any endeavor, in that it requires both opportunity and motivation.
Tennis is still a relatively expensive and exclusive sport in the United States for most families. Other countries are simply doing a better job of attracting the most promising athletes at a young age, especially since tennis has become an Olympic sport.
U.S. athletes love to succeed and tennis players are no exception, but the risk to achieving reward as a singular "all or nothing" goal is less in this country than what exists elsewhere in many other parts of the world. Maybe it's not such a bad thing for this country to have some parents who do not have their child drop out of school to roll the dice on pro tennis success.
Many Americans see tennis as a means to achieving a healthier lifestyle and as an important part of a well-rounded education rather than as an escape from poverty or anonymity.
Reuters reports that between the years 2000-2010, participation in tennis has outpaced growth in all other traditional sports in the U.S. by an astounding 46 percent.
Tennis as a participatory sport is growing and thriving in the United States, and we are healthier and better educated because of this trend.
Therefore, rather than ask why we "Suck at Tennis," perhaps we should ask, "Why does it matter to us that we don't dominate the tennis world?"