There is another event being played on a grassy world stage right now. Hello. Anyone out there remember Wimbledon?
You know, tennis. That sport that used to be kind of popular back when John McEnroe was the biggest jerk in short pants and Chrissie Evert grew roots on the baseline?
Sadly for the sprawling Atlanta community of league players — as well as the rest of country that may have at least one old full metal racket in the back of the closet — America is in total tennis eclipse. There is practically zero rooting interest left for events at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. It is the second week of Wimbledon, and there is the same number of Americans left in that draw as there are on the editorial page of Pravda.
This just in Monday morning: Former Bulldog John Isner, the last American standing, lost his third-round match in four sets to Spain’s Feliciano Lopez.
Once the last Williams sister fell — both Serena and Venus were third-round casualties — any chance of a U.S. player actually making noise at the tournament was gone. They have been alone seemingly forever planting the flag at the sport’s summit. Alas, both are of that age when hitting groundstrokes four hours a day isn’t as rewarding as it used to be. Both are transitioning to the next phase, enjoying laurels as much as grass courts.
The state of American tennis has been in shambles for a while. The last American woman not named Williams to win a grand slam event was Jennifer Capriati in 2002. One year later, Andy Roddick was the last American man to win one of the big four.
Have we hit rock bottom yet? Hard to say. The next great American player has yet to peek over the horizon. Of the nine American women ranked among the world’s top 100, five are 23 years old or younger, with time to show something. Only one of the seven U.S. men among the top 100 fit that demographic.
Speaking for the men last week at Wimbledon, Denis Kudla said, “I think what happened is, maybe we missed a generation. The generation behind Roddick maybe didn’t pan out like it was supposed to.”
Pointing out that tennis is a second-tier sport back home, the 21 year old pro added, “People just have to be patient.”
Patience ran out a while ago. Now it’s interest that is endangered.
Applications are now being accepted for an American tennis savior.