Where Have All the Good American Men Gone?
It's French Open time, tennis fans.
The clay is watered down. The lines are cleanly swept. The nets are tautly tied. Are you ready? I know I am.
There are a number of headlines for the Big Four of tennis heading into Roland Garros this year.
- Will Novak Djokovic be able to complete the career grand slam?
- Can Rafael Nadal win his tenth French Open?
- Can Roger Federer win his record Grand Slam title No 18?
- Can Andy Murray ride his best clay-court year towards a third Grand Slam title?
While these tennis giants are competing for the Coupe des Mousquetaires, the American men are just hoping to make it past the first few rounds.
American men didn't always use to be a pushover in the tennis world. In fact, American men have won a combined 51 Grand Slam singles titles, which is more than double the amount of any other nation. Names such Pete Sampras, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and Andre Agassi once brought the tennis world to its knees.
But the era of the dominant American male tennis player is long gone.
Not Since the 2003 US Open -- when Andy Roddick defeated Juan Carlos Ferrero -- has an American male won a Grand Slam singles title. Conversely, American women -- mainly Serena and Venus Williams -- have dominated their sport, winning 16 combined Grand Slam single titles since the men’s drought started in 2003.
The question now is, who will be the savior of American men’s tennis?
Isner has been recognized as the top American men’s player in recent years, but so far, he's been unable to break the Grand Slam drought. Isner is seeded No 16 in the French Open this year and will look to improve upon his fourth-round exit from the Open in 2014. However, it's hard to imagine a scenario where Isner is able to break through into the final, even if he plays the best tennis of his life.
Unfortunately, Sock has a first-round matchup versus the No 10 seed Grigor Dimitrov. Sock will probably see his exit happen then, but he may be able to cause a stir if he can find a way to upset Dimitrov.
But the more interesting story comes with the debut of 17-year-old Frances Tiafoe.
Dude earned a wild-card berth earlier this month and was then able to fight his way into the French Open draw. Last year, Tiafoe held a practice session with Nadal prior to the 2014 event, which Tiafoe said made "an exciting day for [him]."
Tiafoe will not win the French Open, either -- there is no question about that -- but his debut may signify the rising crop of American men that includes Noah Rubin, who debuted at the 2014 U.S Open, and Michael Mmoh, who emigrated to the USA from Saudi Arabia at the age of 11.
So, it's more than likely going to be another disappointing French Open for the American men, but this year may see the beginning of a new era in American tennis.
Maybe Tiafoe and others like him will enter into a Renaissance of sorts for American men’s tennis. Or maybe the drought will continue on for the foreseeable future.
Either way, I’m ready for a great red, white, and blue, French Open. Can't avoid it, actually. Those are the French national colors, too.