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By Akshay Kohli
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You look around the world and you see Americans are achievers, and to say that they have been a tennis superpower would be a grossly understated fact. If we count Ivan Lendl and Martina Navratilova as Americans and add them to the likes of Arthur Ashe, Don Budge, Fred Perry, Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi , Pete Sampras , so on ,so forth and so further forth, the list just never ends! But there is one question that everyone, certainly me, has on their minds, what has lead to the decline of the greatness that American tennis stood for since the beginning of the Open Era?
Americans were the crème de la crème of tennis not so long ago with an American by the name of Pete Sampras reining the world for a very long time. Is it the lack of talent, weakness of the domestic structure, failure of adherence to the evolution in the sport or is it simply because Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal won’t let anyone win anything. The reason which could possibly be the biggest in deciphering this American decline is the absence of clay courts in America, which immediately means that the players are bred on hard courts.
The game has evolved over the years with the advent of European and Latin American players which means that they are exposed to clay courts since the first time they pick up a tennis racquet. Hard court players rely on big serves, powerful shot making and big forehand winners down the line which minimizes their baseline movements. The game has however changed, players need to be more agile, move across the court quickly, stay on the court for longer periods of time and most importantly need to have a vast repertoire of strokes in their bags to win. Strokes like the lob, slice and drop are used as the stock shots now depending on the match situation.
The world’s best players, Nadal, Federer and Djokovic are best examples of a fine blend between adaptation of the requirements of the game with their own strengths. The fact that no American male tennis player has won a grand slam singles title since Roddick in 2003 speaks volumes about how Americans have failed to adapt to the change that has taken in the sport.
The dominance of Roger Federer, who succeeded Pete Sampras as the winner of most number of Grand Slams and took the baton of dominance from America and put it in the hands of Europe might also suggest that it’s about time that America lets someone else dominate the sport, after all the end of dominance is inevitable, especially in sport. Whatever it is, the fact is that severe measures need to be taken by the USTA to improve the quality of tennis , so that they have better to offer to the world than John Isner and Mardy Fish. Offer Novak Djokovic American citizenship maybe?
This article has been contributed by one of our budding interns, Vikram Mahendra.
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