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Last Updated: Monday, 3 July 2006, 21:15 GMT 22:15 UK
Troubled times for US tennis

By Caroline Cheese
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

Andy Roddick
Down and out: Roddick was one of five Americans to lose on Saturday
It is Independence Day in the United States on Tuesday, but Americans will not be spending their public holiday watching one of their own in action at Wimbledon.

The exit of five Americans on Saturday left the little-known Shenay Perry to fly the Stars and Stripes in the second week, and she saw her surprise run brutally ended by Elena Dementieva 6-2 6-0 early on Monday.

The statistics make uncomfortable reading for the nation which has at one time or another dominated both men's and women's tennis.

The last time there were no Americans in the Wimbledon quarter-finals was in 1911, when no US women and only three men were entered in the tournament.

The United States had as many representatives in the last 16 of the tournament as Poland, Cyprus, Georgia, and even, shock of shocks, Great Britain.

And so on and so forth. Put simply, it is the worst showing by the Americans at Wimbledon for 84 years.

"It sucks," admitted Andy Roddick on Saturday, shortly after he was outclassed by 19-year-old Andy Murray in the third round.

"I've got used to that press conference at the French Open where we get asked how much we suck on clay, but it is a lot more surprising and disappointing when it is at Wimbledon, a place where we have all had so much success."

Roddick is a former Grand Slam winner - his sole win coming at the US Open in 2002 - but with his defeat to Murray, he could now lose his place in the world's top 10.

Andre Agassi's retirement will have a big effect on tennis - and not just in the US

US journalist Matt Cronin

"It's very difficult to see how he's going to become a top-five player again," observed Matt Cronin, an experienced journalist from across the water, writing for tennisreporters.net.

"What's he bringing to the table that's so special? There are at least 25 other guys on tour who can hit a forehand as well as he can. There are at least 100 with a better backhand, and a good 30 with better volleys."

And if it is the case that Roddick has been left behind, where does the future of American men's tennis lie?

Donald Young was once considered the "next big thing", but the IMG-backed 16-year-old has had his confidence shattered by making his first steps on the ATP Tour far too early in his career.

Cronin told BBC Sport: "On the men's side, Andy Roddick and James Blake are the only two elite players left after Andre Agassi's retirement but they haven't put in elite showings at the Grand Slams this year.

"The 18-year-old Sam Querrey is the only guy I can see at the moment who has some definite promise. He's won a Futures tournament and he looks like he could make the top 50 but beyond that, it's hard to say.

Serena and Venus Williams
America's Williams sisters played each other six times in Grand Slam finals

"On the women's side, Jamea Jackson and Shenay Perry are OK - maybe top 30 players - but top 30 isn't good enough for the US."

Of course, things are unlikely to be as bad as this Wimbledon again, especially when you consider the next Grand Slam is on American soil and Serena Williams and Lindsay Davenport could be back from injury.

But the fact remains that 70% of the world's top 30 men and 85% of the women are European, and the United States appears to be losing its grip on a sport it once dominated.

However, this is no time for the rest of the world to gloat at the demise of a one-time tennis superpower.

The country hosts 13 men's tournaments and 10 women's events, with all the sponsorship and marketing power that goes with it.

As Cronin explained: "Agassi leaving will have a big effect - and not just on tennis in the US.

"He is arguably one of the most popular players of all time so it will be interesting to see what sort of crowds tournaments draw next year without him, especially if we don't see anything special from Blake and Roddick this year.

"And if, as a result, tennis is not getting on prime-time television, the take-up will drop and things could get worse from there. These are certainly troubling times."



SEE ALSO
Brilliant Murray shocks Roddick
01 Jul 06 |  Tennis


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