When I say American tennis sucks, I mean, of course, big time pro tennis, not the kind played by the eighteen million amateurs in our country estimated to play the game in a 2016 study.
Most of them are expected to suck, but it’s for fun.
American pro tennis didn’t always suck.
In fact, it has a rather illustrious history starting in the days of Bill Tilden and Don Budge (who defeated German Baron Gottfried von Cramm in a battle that prefigured WWII), going through Pancho Gonzalez out of the streets of East LA and into the eras of Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and, of course Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi who ruled the game at the end of the last century, to name just a few. (Did I omit Jack Kramer?)
Indeed, at one point, it seemed no one would ever exceed Sampras’ haul of fourteen Grand Slams and would go down as The GOAT—the Greatest of All Time.
Er… not so fast, grasshopper. Now three guys named Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have 20, 20 and 17 respectively and, at least in the latter two cases, look to be adding who knows how many more.
Backing them up are a whole flotilla of younger players from all over the map but the USA. Two Russians, a Greek, an Austrian and a German (of Russian decent) look to be serious contenders for Slams in the near future.
The last time an American won one of those babies was Andy Roddick at the US Open in 2003.
The Grand Slam in progress now—the COVID-riven Australian—had only one American make it as far as the round of 16, Taylor Fritz, who fell to Djokovic in five sets. No doubt it would have been straights had not the world number one torn an abdominal muscle at the beginning of the third set. He still made Fritz look hapless in the fifth.
Ironically, even now, young players from across the globe come to learn to play tennis at places like Nick Bolletieri’s school in Florida (most famous graduate—Agassi) but then they stay on to beat the crap out of the Americans.
Also, a lot of money is being spent to develop new players all across our country. We have a huge network of tournaments at all levels.
So why do we suck?
The best explanation I have heard is that we are too fat—not so much physically (that too) as emotionally.
In other words, we ain’t hungry enough. There are too many easy ways to make money and succeed in the USA. Why bother to bang a ball for six hours a day and then spend another five in the weight room when you can run a hedge fund on a laptop from your yacht in Key West, sipping endless margaritas?
I was first told this by a tennis instructor, at the Los Angeles Tennis Club where I used to play before moving to Nashville.
The instructor, himself an Eastern European, was a bit snotty about it—implying that we would never come back again; we were too soft—but I admit he had a point.
This was about a half-dozen years ago when he said it, and I think he was catching a zeitgeist we are all familiar with now. In a way, this is what Trump was trying to fight.
On the other hand, this may all be chance, another turn of the wheel we see in almost every sport. In five years, some current tenth grader practicing his serve in some Nebraska playground may be winning Wimbledon and becoming the new Rolex sponsor.
And, as you may have noted, this is only about the men.
A certain American woman named Serena goes on and on and on and, at 39 and acknowledged as the GOAT, at least for her sex, and arguably for both (Federer says so), is already in the quarters of the Australian. Three other American women were in the fourth round with her, more than any other country.
As for the eighteen million American amateur players mentioned at the top, they’re likely to be around for a while. If you haven’t picked up a racquet yourself, you might want to join them.
According to a recent study from Denmark, playing tennis adds on average a staggering 9.7 years to your life. It beats all other sports by a wide margin—including jogging and weight-lifting—except… wait for it… badminton.
Roger L. Simon has won prizes in fiction and screenwriting, but never in tennis, though he’s still trying… and trying. Currently, he is the editor-at-large of The Epoch Times.