Ashraf Ali Siddiqui describes an absence that is deeply felt
Wimbledon is the pride of grand-slam tennis tournaments but one thing is missing from the glitzy array of tennis stars: lack of Americans competitors that once used to dominate the tennis circuit. This year’s Wimbledon witnessed end of the road for the legendary sisters with Serena Williams losing in the first round. In the opening stages of Wimbledon an American Taylor Fritz was broken in his opening service game and quickly fell behind Rafael Nadal following Amanda Amanisova’s error-strewn capitulation to Simona Halep and these events witnessed the last remaining US players in either Wimbledon singles draw would be swept aside in drama-free fashion. With these defeats Americans have largely been reduced to a once-unthinkable afterthought role.
The beginning of the American eclipse is rated from Andy Roddick’s abrupt retirement nearly a decade ago leaving the United States without an active men’s grand slam champion for the first time in 129 years, since the inception of what then was called the US national championships. And while Venus and Serena Williams have combined for a dozen of their 30 major singles championships at Wimbledon – and 122 WTA titles overall – the hand-wringing over their successor on the women’s side has persisted even despite the one-off successes of Sloane Stephens and Sofia Kenin.
Wimbledon’s Centre Court’s centenary celebrations offered a stark reminder of how the United States once pumped out Wimbledon champions with a regularity taken for granted, a who’s who that only in the Open era includes Pete Sampras, Lindsay Davenport, Andre Agassi, Chris Evert, John McEnroe, Billie Jean King, Jimmy Connors, Martina Navratilova, Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith. Anisimova’s straightforward defeat in the co-main event left only Fritz, the 24-year-old Californian in the form of his life who was one of four Americans to reach the last-16 in the men’s draw – the most at Wimbledon since 1999 and the most at any grand slam since the 2011 US Open. Fritz’s progress has been the brightest highlight of a purple patch for US players at these championships, where the American presence on the men’s half of things has not been felt this acutely since the days of Sampras, Agassi, Jim Courier and Todd Martin.
There was the crowd-pleasing American Frances Tiafoe, the world No 28, reached the fourth round but was beaten before the quarter final. Also Tommy Paul, ranked a career-high 32nd on his Wimbledon debut, who made it to the last-16 before falling to Cameron Norrie. Brandon Nakashima’s five-set defeat to Nick Kyrgios on the Fourth of July put further damper on American expectations. The Americans could only watch as a potential date with another first-time grand slam appears to a distant dream and this is something not very pleasant to experience. TW