The past decades of tennis have been all about European tennis players. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray have dominated on every surface and every tournament. All of these players have European roots. Even in current times, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, Carlos Alaraz, Jannik Sinner, all come from a country within the European continent. Evidently, based on which countries occupy the top spots in the ATP rankings, it should be true that most top 100 players should come from a European country. However, this is far from the truth.
In what is actually a relatively surprising find, the U.S. contains the largest number of tennis players within the top 100. Not only that, there is actually a diverse mix of ages, with players like John Isner and Sebastian Kirda both occupying the top spots in the rankings. Yet, it has been common talk about the significant lack of American tennis players winning prominent tournaments, like Masters 1000s and grand slams. With there being so many great American tennis players, why has there been such lackluster results from players of this country?
There are many reasons that could be said. First and foremost, American tennis is really known for the big serve, plus one style of play. This strategy is what has brought players like John Isner and Sam Querrey significant amounts of success. However, this prioritizes hard hitting and short points over longer, more physical points. Thus, while some of the biggest serves come from American players, a crazy amount of unforced errors come from the same players as well. When compared to European tennis players, American tennis players do not have the same level of stamina either, because of the short points that they are used to playing. So, in best of five-set matches, it is hard for such tennis players to sustain their level throughout the entire match. In terms of other tournaments throughout the season, it takes a significant level of fitness in order to keep one’s level from the first rounds to the final. That is why many Americans make it to the third or fourth round before bowing out of the tournament. Overall, because of the style that these players are taught to play from a young age, they are not able to develop their stamina and games to their fullest ability and thus suffer significantly.
Another factor that could lead to the problems that tennis in America faces today is the surface that tennis players are trained on. In countries like Spain, players get used to grinding out points on clay courts in extreme weather conditions without an air conditioner to make their lives easier. In the Americas, some areas lack clay courts on which players can play, and most of these places are indoor courts with proper amenities to make aplayer comfortable while they are playing. While it is by no means necessary to make young players feel uncomfortable while they are simply trying to enjoy the sport, it is important for those who want to go pro that they are subjected to harsh conditions that will only help them improve. Training on clay has its own benefits. These courts usually make any ball travel much slower than how fast they would travel on a hard court or grass court. Thus, the serve plus one strategy is not as effective. Training on clay teaches players how to grind out points and increase their stamina, all the while teaching them how to hit with more spin and maneuver the opponent, eventually setting up points and finishing. Many valuable skills are learned on the dirt courts rather than on the hard courts taht are traditionally used in the Americas.
There are some other factors that could be considered. For example, most athletes in the Americas are more focused on other sports. As statistics have shown, tennis has actually faced a decrease in popularity within the Americas. Other sports like baseball and basketball have found much more approval amongst American students and adults.
While American tennis players have not experienced much success in recent times, many positive signs have been shown. In our most recent Australian Open, Tommy Paul, an American, made it to the semifinals of the tournament. Both Ben Shelton and Sebastian Korda made it to the final eight of the tournament. Evidently, these players are doing something right to ensure their success. It is time for there to be a slight revolution in how tennis is viewed and practice in the Americas to have better results on the biggest stages of the tennis circuit.