American Men’s Tennis – A Rebound Coming?

John Isner ATP Cup 2022
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American Men’s Tennis enthusiasts can usually answer the following question pretty quickly:

Question: Who is the last American man to win the US Open?”
Answer: Andy Roddick in 2003.

Pundits and commentators make this point about American men’s tennis in the days leading up to just about every Grand Slam event contested each year. After almost 20 years, it is becoming routine, though amazingly true. As the 2022 North American hard court summer series heats up, a deeper dive shows just how absent American men have been in the late stages of big tournaments. It also leads to the debate as whether this year can bring any sort of breakthrough.

US Open Semifinals and Finals

While the “Roddick 2003” answer may come quickly, the dearth of strong results runs much deeper. Roddick is also the last American finalist at the US Open, in 2006. Roger Federer dismissed Roddick in four sets to win the third of his five straight US Opens that year.

Since Roddick’s loss to Federer, no American has reached their home championship’s final four. John Isner in 2018 and Sam Querrey in 2017 are the most recent American quarterfinalists in Queens. That is correct, no American male reached the final eight competitors in the last three US Opens.

American Men’s Tennis in Canada and Cincinnati?

The Masters 1000 event in Canada, now known as the “National Bank Open” starts next week.¬†Following play in Montreal, most of the top men head to the Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati, currently called the Western & Southern Open. Significant and lucrative tournaments on their own, these hard court affairs also serve as US Open tune-ups for the top players. American men have not fared particularly well at these events either.

The last American man to win in Canada and Cincinnati? Yep, Andy Roddick, who won in 2003 and 2006 respectively. Nine years passed since John Isner reached the Cincinnati final in 2013, where he lost to Rafael Nadal. A glimpse of hope came last year when American Reilly Opelka reached the Canada final before falling to Russia’s Daniil Medvedev.

This American Summer

As the run to the US Open heats up in August, American fans look to a mix of young veterans, stalwarts, and newcomers in hopes of finding a new championship competitor. Once again, no American men are ranked inside the Top 10.

Taylor Fritz (#13), Opelka (#17), and Frances Tiafoe (#27) are all 24-year-old players who may be able to inch toward a deep run in the coming weeks. Now 33, Isner looks too old to find a new level.

Jenson Brooksby, Sebastian Korda, and Brandon Nakishima all hold rankings outside the Top 35. Still, all three are 22 or younger and may be ready to stake a claim as the next American star. After so many misses, long-time observers will wait before anointing any of these players as the next American champion.

Tiafoe and Brooksby actually advanced to the semis at the first hard court summer series event in Atlanta in July. Brooksby knocked out Tiafoe before falling to Austrailian Alex de Minaur. On grass, Fritz gave a gallant effort in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon before falling to Nadal.

Is This the Year for American Men’s Tennis?

So is this the year an American Men’s tennis re-emerges at the US Open? Or, even in Canada or Cincinnati? Probably not. Big-serving Isner is too old, Opelka and Fritz show flashes, but need a little more. The under-25 crew possess tremendous talent but still seem to lack the weapons or experience to triumph over the Top 10 at the big North American hard court events.

If all goes to form, in 2023 the answer to the opening question will remain the same as it has for 20 years: “Andy Roddick, 2003.”

Main Photo from Getty.