The United States Open Tennis Championships. Sometimes called the “Super Bowl” of our sport, is one of the biggest sporting events in the world. It may not have the tradition of Wimbledon, but to Americans this tournament ranks #1 in terms of importance. It’s really hard to explain how much it means to tennis in our country. It’s more than just a tournament. It’s significance is comparable to an entrance exam, where a student’s (in this case a sport’s) future is on the line.
The US Open, which is commonly referred to simply as “The Open”, has been played since 1881, making it one of the most oldest events in tennis history. Since 1987 it has been the fourth Grand Slam of the year, and it has been played at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York since 1978. Some of the most famous matches in tennis history have occurred in New York, and many of those matches featured American players.
In the “Golden Age” of American tennis, players like John Mcenroe, Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, and Andre Aggassi gave the U.S an annual shot at taking the title at their home tournament. Even the likes of Andy Roddick and James Blake gave American’s considerable hope, with A-Rod taking the title in 2003. Things are not as bright these days. That 2003 US Open was the last Grand Slam singles title won by an American Player, and we haven’t had the number 1 ranking since early 2004. This year marks the ten year anniversary of Roddick’s memorable win. The next two weeks will have a massive impact on the sport of tennis in USA.
Here’s the current issue: Most great athletes in our country choose to pursue sports like Football, Baseball and Basketball because of the national and worldwide attention those sports receive. In order for Tennis to be successful in America we need great athletes. Now that’s not to say we don’t have any; because we do, just not enough. If you remember back to the early 90’s, Aggassi, Sampras, Courier and Michael Chang were all top 10 players, and they pushed each other to get better. The famous Nick Bollittieri Tennis Academy was known for having kids compete fiercely against their peers to improve. The USTA is doing all they can to get back to that, but it’s going to take some help.
That help has to come from current American players. The only way to get the attention of the country is for someone in the men’s game to succeed. That doesn’t mean we need somebody to win it all, because that’s highly unlikely. What we need is someone to make an exciting run that captures the emotion of our country. Will it happen this year? It’s unlikely, but you have to believe. The American crowd give their players unreal support during matches, and we have a lot of young guys competing in the main draw this year.
John Isner and Sam Querrey are both established pro’s going in the completely opposite direction. For Querrey, it’s been a terrible summer. Sure he made the semi’s of Winston Salem, but that was in a depleted field. Isner on the other hand, is heading in the right direction. He won in Atlanta, along with impressive runner-up finishes in Washington DC and Cincinnati. Isner could play Rafael Nadal in the fourth round if both players get there. That’s the kind of match that could have an impact on the country.
However, what we really need is a fresh face to embrace the crowd and shock the world. We have a few hopefuls this year in Ryan Harrison, Jack Sock, Denis Kudla and the 18u Kalamazoo champ Colin Altamirano. These guys have game, but they’ve yet to put it all together. The US Open puts American Tennis under the spotlight every year, but this time around even more critical question will be asked. How will the American players respond?