Wow. The report came out this weekend that there will be no Americans in either the men’s or women’s top ten rankings from the WTA. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
How long has it been since this occurred? Well, never. The rankings were first published for men in 1973 and the women in 1975.
The news report has a couple of quotes from players as to why this is happening. Bethanie Mattek-Sands said:
In other countries there’s a little more of that grit to get out of where they’re coming from. Take some of the Russians, they’re trying to get out of there—make some money, and get out of there. The U.S. have it too good. It will take some people getting out of their comfort zone.
Ok, so she thinks it has to do with players wanting to escape their country for a better life.
Rafael Nadal says it more succinctly:
A new generation has to come.
He is absolutely correct.
There are three other reasons:
No personalities: The Americans have no one with a personality anymore. Stretching back to McEnroe and Connors when I was growing up, we always had someone with fire or personality. Someone to draw you into the game. It didn’t have to be someone that yelled at umpires, but someone who would get excited.
Fewer kids playing tennis: This one is undeniable. The USTA knows this and is trying to engage more kids by making the game easier to learn and play. Their 10 and Under campaign has launched, and well, I am unsure. They use different balls, smaller courts, etc. The idea is to engage children under the age of 10 by making it easier or more fun to play tennis. They use t-ball as an example, but let’s be serious. Kids playing t-ball are doing it as a team sport and to have some fun. Very few of them will become dedicated baseball players let alone professionals.
Exposure: Past the Williams’ sisters, how many US players can you name? If you make it past five, you know more American tennis players than 99% of Americans. Tennis just isn’t engaging the casual fan enough outside of the majors.
Is it a bad thing there aren’t more Americans in the top ten? top twenty? Not really, unless it becomes a decade long problem. There is still enough money from around the world to sustain the sport, but if this short-term issue becomes a long-term trend, we’re in trouble.