By Courtney Cooper
We are living in a drought, people. A drought that has been escalating over the past ten years. A drought so massive that America may never recover.
I’m not talking about actual precipitation across our country or even referencing our down economy. I’m talking about tennis. I’ve been an avid tennis fan since 1994, when at the age of nine I watched Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi win three out of the four major titles. Those two men championed the sport for several years following my introduction to tennis and all American fans feel their absence today.
Like any sport there are dry spells when your favorite players don’t win for a while. However, American tennis is experiencing a dry spell like never before. Our best male competitor is ranked at unlucky Number 13 and the last American male tennis player to win a major title was Andy Roddick at the 2003 U.S. Open. Between 1992-2002, U.S. men collected 23 trophies – and we’ve only gotten one since then. And before you jump on the soapbox and point out we’ve had women champions in the past ten years, I’ll admit the Williams sisters are keeping the sport alive… but they are both nearing retirement age.
As the Australian Open continues this week it’s become even more evident that the U.S. is lacking talent. The men’s draw was absent of American names after the third round. On the women’s side, only Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens remain but they play each other in the quarterfinals. Then we’ll be down to one.
Why are there no great American players these days? And what’s going to happen in the future when young players don’t have them to idolize and emulate? My brother and I discussed the sport recently. He argues that tennis gets neither the level of competition nor the scholarship money that other athletics receive, so young players are more likely to give up tennis in favor of other sports. Perhaps it’s because kids prefer team sports? I don’t have the answers, but I’m sure worried that we’ll never see the sport return to its glory when American players like Connors, McEnroe, Navratilova or Sampras were out on the court.
What I do know is the number of American fans is not going down. The U.S. Open welcomes over 700,000 fans every year and is home to the largest tennis stadium in the world. Jacksonville will even host the Davis Cup tie for USA vs. Brazil in February, so if you’re a tennis fan be sure to cheer extra loud for our players. They need all the help they can get.