The State of Tennis

 @authorhm on April 10 2012 1:03 PM
The State of Tennis

Tennis, especially American tennis, is coming off a good weekend.

The U.S. Davis Cup team won 3-2 in Monte Carlo against France; Serena Williams defeated Lucie Safarova 6-0 6-1 at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C. for her 40th title; and several tennis dignitaries were rolling Easter eggs on the White House Lawn.

What is the state of tennis?  

Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka have had unbelievable streaks.  Maria Sharapova has made a comeback and is back at being the world's No. 2 ranked player.  Serena Williams and Venus Willams are competing again after major illnesses/injuries.  The rivalry between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer has waned, but attendance at major events such as BNP Paribas in Indian Wells and the Sony Ericsson in Miami has been strong.  The WTA has stabilized and its biggest, or loudest obstacle, is grunting, as evident in the Sony Ericsson finals between Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska. The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and its players' woes are no longer on the forefront even though Nadal resigned his vice president position on the Players Council. Everyone is looking forward to the next three grand slams, and the Olympics to be held at Wimbledon.  So this is a feel good season for governing bodies and their players who want to represent their countries in the Olympics.

This is all good but what about the state of American tennis?  The highest ranking Americans are at No. 9 -- Serena on the women's side and Mardy Fish on the men's side.

 Current WTA Top Ten Rankings

1 Azarenka, Victoria

2 Sharapova, Maria

3 Kvitova, Petra

4 Radwanska, Agnieszka

5 Stosur, Samantha

6 Wozniacki, Caroline

7 Bartoli, Marion 

8 Li, Na

9 Williams, Serena

10 Zvonareva, Vera

Americans in Top 100 of WTA

35 McHale, Christina

52 King, Vania

71 Williams, Venus

74 Lepchenko, Varvara 

77 Stephens, Sloane

87 Hampton, Jamie

97 Mattek-Sands, Bethanie

Current ATP Top Ten Rankings

1 Djokovic, Novak 

2 Nadal, Rafael 

3 Federer, Roger 

4 Murray, Andy 

5 Tsonga, Jo-Wilfried 

6 Ferrer, David 

7 Berdych, Tomas 

8 Tipsarevic, Janko 

9 Fish, Mardy (USA)

10 Isner, John (USA)

Americans in Top 100 of ATP

29 Roddick, Andy 

45 Young, Donald (USA)

65 Harrison, Ryan (USA)

74 Blake, James (USA)

On the women's side, tournaments are caught between wanting the ailing Venus and Serena, who are a big draw, and a big name that is not as recognizable or as good a draw to promoters in the States.

The USTA is trying to develop the next great American player but has lost many in the shuffle, especially minorities.  The pro circuit events and college tennis have many minorities playing, but few have gotten off the minor or satellite tours.

Venus and Serena still have the best shots at winning a major event.  Teen sensations: Melanie Oudin, Taylor Townsend, Sloane Stephens, Madison Brengle, Christina McHale have done exceptionally well in juniors and have made dents in women's draws.  The 20-year-olds like Vania King and Betthane Mattek-Sands are still threats.

On the men's side, the two marquee players Andy Roddick and James Blake have not won recently.  Thus the USTA is pushing its next hopefuls who are mostly in their twenties: John Isner, Mardy Fish, Ryan Harrison, Ryan Sweeting, Bobby Reynolds, and sometimes Donald Young.  Others that went to college like Evan King, Blake Strode, Sekou Bangoura, and the teens like Dennis Kudla have made strong showings.

Where will the next generation come from?  The USTA has gone all out in promoting its "new game for 10 and unders," only to be lambasted on the internet by Wayne Bryan, the father of the ATP's No. 1 Doubles Team, Americans Mike and Bob Bryan.  Issues with minorities have been pushed behind the scenes even with the USTA' s first minority female vice president. Not since Dwight Mosley has someone of color risen so high.  

As we go from clay to grass to hard courts and back on American soil, let us root for tennis which is a great sport and in a pretty good state.  Mostly, let's hope for the continued promise of American tennis; that all of the talent does not get bogged down by bureaucracy and the power struggles of a volunteer organization; or the notion that there is only one way to raise a champion; or where talented players get lost in and out of the system, especially if they choose their own way.