Wimbledon 2011: Why Andy Roddick Is the Only Hope for American Men's Tennis
At the start of the French Open, I wrote an article titled, "What's wrong with Men's Tennis?" As if the players were trying to validate my argument, the 10 Americans in the field essentially laid down and let the rest of the world walk all over them.
Of the 10 that made the main draw, only two reached the second round. Sam Querrey (another promising American) fell in his next match, leaving the tenth-seed, Mardy Fish, as the only American to advance to the third round.
Cut to a nauseous and rather depressed looking Patrick McEnroe. What's worse, was the way the Americans lost.
Fish showed heart. So too did rising star John Isner who, unfortunately, drew Rafa in the first round but was still his only opponent to push the eventual champion to five sets (not bad for a big guy not know for his footwork). Sam Querrey flashed a fighting spirit as well.
Otherwise, the Americans came and went showing as much toughness and resolve as the French (you know the same people that we in America often make fun of for not having much courage in battle).
Some back home brushed it off with the tired argument that "American's don't play well on clay, that it's not natural to us."
That theory would hold water if not for the fact that Jim Courier, Michael Chang and Andre Agassi didn't all have shiny French Open trophies on their living room mantles. Also, I don't remember seeing too many grass courts in Spain the last time I was there. Don't tell that to Nadal though.
But fine, the French Open disaster is behind us and Wimbledon is finally here. The tournament where Americans have won 15 of the 42 Open Era titles (or just more than 33 percent).
Ah, Wimbledon. So we are back, right? The Americans are going to dominate the summer months starting on the famed lawns of The All England Club?
Sadly no. American tennis is facing its darkest hour. With Querrey having withdrawn because of an arm injury, its looking even worse than before.
Avert your eyes America and put your faith in Andy Roddick because he is the only one capable of helping to avoid an otherwise ugly showing. He has the opportunity to make our great tennis nation proud again.
Forget U-S-A, it's all about An-dy! An-dy! for these next two weeks.
Here is a list of all the Americans in the draw (not including qualifiers), and how they will fare.
10. Michael Russell
The definition of a career journeyman, the 33-year-old Michael Russell comes into Wimbledon ranked 91st in the world.
A 47-104 lifetime record, his best result this year was at a challenger tournament in Savannah, Georgia, where he beat James Blake en route to the semifinals.
In four Wimbledon appearances, he has reached the second round once after doing so last year, beating Spanish youngster Pere Riba. With the hopeless task of going up against Rafael Nadal in the first round, Russell is looking at another one-and-done Grand Slam.
Chances of reaching the second round: .01 percent
Chances of reaching the second week: .001 percent
9. Ryan Sweeting
Sweeting's future is as savory as his name suggests. After a breakout year, Sweeting might be America's next young hope.
He certainly has the talent.
After surprising the field to take the title in Houston, Sweeting has catapulted up the rankings, reaching a career-high 65 earlier this year (he is currently two spots lower at 67).
Only 23, Sweeting is just coming into his own. At 6'5'' and with a big serve, Sweeting has a chance here to get through to the second round.
Unluckily for Sweeting, just like at the Australian Open, if he does make it through to the second round, Nadal awaits.
His first round opponent Pablo Andujar from Spain is very beatable. A win could really build Sweetings confidence.
Chance of reaching the second round: 60 percent
Chance of reaching the second week: .01 percent
8. Mardy Fish
Mardy Fish is America's top seed in the draw and highest ranked player on tour.
The past two years have been good to Mardy Fish. Unfortunately for him, Wimbledon hasn't been as kind.
It's clear that by cracking into the top 10 in the world, Fish has posted good results. Yet for all his efforts, Fish has never found success at The All England Club.
In eight tries he's never advanced past the third round, a trend that is likely to continue again this year.
Fish has the game and the quality wins (including victories over Gasquet, Del Potro, Ferrer) to finally break through at Wimbledon. He even has a favorable draw.
But given that Fish has never found his footing and comfort on the grass, finding success here will prove to be more difficult a task than Fish can handle.
Chances of reaching the second round: 75 percent
Chances of beating Tomas Berdych and reaching the second week: 10 percent
7. Donald Young
Once America's great hope at all of 16, Donald Young has fallen from American tennis fan radars and from grace with the USTA and Patrick McEnroe.
Life on the pro tour has been much more difficult for Young than the child prodigy surely imagined.
Nevertheless, Young is still only 21 and has put together a challenger title in Tallahassee with another finals appearance in Savannah earlier this year.
Facing fellow American Alex Bogomolov Jr. in the first round, Young has a great opportunity to advance to his first ever second round showing at Wimbledon.
Chances of advancing to the second round: 52 percent
Chances of beating Berdych and advancing to the second week: three percent
6. Alex Bogomolov Jr.
Another career journeyman and a naturalized American citizen who moved to the States from Russia, Bogomolov stunned the tennis world when he defeated Andy Murray in straight sets at the Masters Series in Miami.
His best result of his career, Bogomolov has also excelled on the challenger circuit, winning in Dallas and making the finals of Prague and Sarasota.
In his fourth attempt after three failed tries in qualifiers, this will be Bogomolov's first ever match in a Wimbledon main draw.
Chance of reaching the second round: 48 percent
Chance of beating Berdych and reaching the second week: seven percent
5. Robert Kendrick
Robert Kendrick is yet another American journeyman who has spent most of his career on the challenger circuit.
At 4-8 on the season and 35-76 lifetime, it's hard to imagine that Kendrick will be able to make much of a dent here at Wimbledon.
This will probably be the 31-year-olds last Wimbledon main draw experience. Having reached the second round here once before in 2006, a repeat is certainly possible.
Kendrick has the good fortune to have drawn a qualifier in the first round. Unfortunately, Gael Monfils looms in the second.
Chance of reaching the second round: 66 percent
Chance of reaching the second week: .66 percent
4. Andy Roddick
If Andy Roddick looks a bit flush and slumped, it's only because he's carrying the weight of America's tennis hopes on his shoulders.
Fortunately, he looks like—or at least, I am hoping and predicting he is—he's up to the challenge.
It hasn't been the best of years for Roddick, but Wimbledon should be able to ease his pain. He loves this place, and were it not for a guy named Roger, he would have dominated it, too.
Roddick's been to three Wimbledon finals in large part because of his huge serve and powerful forehand. Seeded eighth coming in (two spots higher than his ATP ranking), Roddick is America's only legitimate hope to reach the quarterfinals.
By relying on and summoning the confidence of years past here, don't expect Roddick to just reach and be happy with the quarters. This year could be a chance to re-assert himself into the conversation of the world's top players.
A finals run is certainly not out of the question. If Roger Federer meets him there, well a fourth runner-up trophy can't be too bad. Right?
Chances of reaching the second round: 90 percent
Chances of reaching the second week: 77 percent
3. John Isner
Last season, John Isner came into Wimbledon seeded and ready for a breakout tournament.
Then he ran into Nicolas Mahut.
While he eventually prevailed, the 11-hour match gassed the big American. By the time he started his second round match three days later he had no energy and lost in a lethargic effort (it's hard to blame him).
To date, Isner is now remembered more for the epic encounter than he is for any results in Grand Slam tournaments. Once again, however, Isner has another good opportunity in front of him. On paper he appears to have a difficult road ahead, but a closer look shows possibility more than anguish.
To start he must face Mahut again, a thought that probably scares both players. If Isner survives, he will likely play twelve-seed Nicolas Almagro of Spain.
While playing a 12-seed is never an easy task, Almagro is an ideal matchup for Isner as the Spaniard is terrible on the grass courts. Isner's game matches up beautifully and his huge serves should give Almagro fits.
After all, Isner has been known to hit an ace or two... or one hundred.
In the third round, Isner would probably draw 18th seed Mikhail Youzhny. This is where the trouble for Isner begins. Youzhny is much more comfortable on grass, and thus, he's a much tougher opponent for Isner. Even if Isner can top Youzhny, his tournament would end in the next round against Federer.
If Isner can summon the level of play that helped push Rafa to 5 sets in Paris anything is possible although you just figure that at Wimbledon, Federer is going to somehow find a way to win.
Still considering the other American results, a fourth round finish isn't bad.
Chance of reaching the second round: 50.000000000001 (more of a testament to their incredible match last season than real odds. How can you knock Mahut after that?)
Chance of reaching the second week: 18 percent
2. James Blake
I could make a joke about how James Blake's career has gone into hiding or how he should just pack it in, or even how his body is more fragile than LeBron James' ego.
I won't. It's hard seeing James Blake struggle through one more comeback when his body nor his game can really hold up. I feel sorry for Blake and have too much respect for what he has achieved and the excitement he brought to tennis.
At 7-6 on the year (mostly against average competition), it's hard not to think that this could be his last Wimbledon. The electricity and flare that won him thousands of fans—especially at Flushing Meadows—is gone.
Maybe he can make one last run, but his never ending list of injuries seems to hold him back. This time it's a nagging knee injury.
Even if he's healthy, his confidence will need repairing if he is going to beat the streaking 32nd seeded Marcos Baghdatis.
An upset over Baghdatis could propel James and help push him through to the third round but with Djokovic waiting, his tournament would surely end there.
Chance of reaching the second round: 38 percent
Chance of reaching the second week: 6 percent
It's not looking good for American tennis. One's thing for sure, Andy better be lifting because he is about to carry the weight of America's hopes on his shoulders.
Michael Russell - first round
Ryan Sweeting - second round
Mardy Fish - second round
Donald Young - second round
Alex Bogomolov Jr. - first round
Robert Kendrick - first round
Andy Roddick - finals
John Isner - fourth round
James Blake - first round
If these results were to hold, except if Andy Roddick were to lose in the quarters or before, such an outcome would be one of the worst—if not the worst ever—showings at Wimbledon for American men.
American tennis is in a complete state of disrepair, yet, we still have one shining star.
An-dy! An-dy! An-dy!