Where’s the next Andy Roddick?
Everything was normal and nothing was strange when the spiky-haired Andy Roddick, after beating Juan Carlos Ferrero to win the US Open in 2003, went on the Late Show with David Letterman to talk about what it feels like to be a champion. At first he seemed a little nervous. The tournament had just honored a retired Pete Sampras, and Roddick was heir apparent. He mentioned his actress girlfriend Mandy Moore. He faced questions about what it was like to be 21 and the toast of the five boroughs, if not the country, and responded with a frankness that would become his trademark. And really nothing was surprising about it all: another handsome young man from California, New York or Florida (in this case Nebraska) had won our Grand Slam trophy at home and showed up. on television late at night. felt predictable, a model that had been around for decades and could last forever, the biggest tennis trophies hoisted by American men, only now, for the turn of the century, in a feathered fauxhawk and distressed jeans.
“You’ve got the world by the tail for heaven’s sake!” Letterman exclaimed towards the end of the interview. Roddick replied, “I don’t know about this.” But if you watch the clip a few times, it’s obvious Roddick knew this very well, as he was lining up behind other champions, and so did we.
Now we know differently. The 2021 US Open, which kicked off this week in New York, brought together 20 Americans in the men’s singles draw. Judging by the last few years, it’s very unlikely that any of them will reach the final or even the semi-finals; our best competitor, John Isner, currently ranked 22nd in the world, just lost in the first round. “The short answer is, it’s possible but dubious,” four-time US Open champion John McEnroe told me. “I’m hopeful because God knows we need it. “That’s because for practically all of the history of sport, aside from a few Europeans and South Americans, and a few laps of”Australian, Australian, Australian, “ The Americans dominated the men’s Grand Slam. Whereas lately: not at all.
Professional tennis as we know it began in 1968, at the dawn of the open era. The Americans have since won the most Slam titles by far, with 52. Notable names in history include Don Budge, Dick Savitt, Pancho Gonzales. Since 68, the champion-not-basketball Stan Smith. The champion-not-stadium Arthur Ashe. “Lithuanian Lion” Vitas Gerulaitis, aka “Broadway Vitas”, a partying idol who looked like a lifeguard with a side activity in porn. Without forgetting the prodigal champion and “Brash Basher of Belleville” Jimmy Connors. Prodigal champion and “Superbrat” Johnny Mac himself. I didn’t even reach the late 80s and 90s, perhaps the pinnacle of star ball, with Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Jim Courier and Sampras competing to break records. “If you look at previous generations, there has been an American at the absolute pinnacle of men’s football forever,” Todd Martin, world number 4 in 1999, told me. “It just seemed like second nature,” he said. Stan Smith said. If anything, at the turn of the century America’s glut of men’s tennis superstars seemed overdone, perhaps even in need of a correction. “We’ve won so many slams, so many titles,” said Michael Chang, “I don’t know if we’ll have another generation like this.”
Flashback to things, Roddick country. The terrain that hosted him and his cohort, James Blake, Mardy Fish, Robby Ginepri, was mountainous. Big expectations, big rewards. The public didn’t care if players stayed late to party (they liked their players to party) as long as they brought the gear home. But Roddick’s generation has also come of age during a period of significant change. First of all, the situation changed: the training was more complex, the nutrition was better appreciated. New technology, especially the rise of the polyester strings, has allowed players to hit harder with more control, which means fast balls with tons of spin that clears the net higher and then dives inside lines, whatever their speed, and bounce like a fist flying to an opponent’s gut. Basically, tennis players spent less time at the club, more time in the gym. “The 54 days of the Studio have all changed with [Ivan] Lendl, ”explained James Blake, referring to the Czech-American champion who has had a winning streak in part thanks to his physical form. “You couldn’t party and still be so successful with guys who were so serious about training.”